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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



A correspondent in the United States (Mark Spahn) points out that several American dictionaries identify one sense of the noun run-up as British. For example:
run-up n
1: the act of running up something
2: a usually sudden increase in volume or price
3 chiefly Brit: a period immediately preceding an action or event
(Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, 10th edition)

run-up n.
1 [Chiefly Brit.] a preparatory period preceding an important event.
2 a substantial, often rapid, increase in cost, price, value, etc.
(Webster's New World College, 4th edition)

run-up (plural run-ups)
noun
1. sudden rise: a sudden increase in something such as price, sales, or value
2. run preceding something: a run taken to gather momentum, for example, for a jump or kick in an athletic event
3. U.K. time immediately before something: the period of time that leads up to an important event
(Encarta World English, North American Edition)
Some other American dictionaries, including the fourth edition of American Heritage, do not include this meaning at all.

This British label and the word's omission from some recent dictionaries are surprising, as the word seems completely at home in American English:
Bates' strongest political ally in the run up to the election, Councilmember Kriss Worthington, called the newspapers' destruction "stupid behavior." (Daily Californian, 2002)

By covering him in the run-up to the election as they did Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Coleman, the Twin Cities media gave Mr. Ventura's candidacy a huge boost. (a newsletter issued by the University of Minnesota, 1999)

In the run-up to the election, AARP collected pledges from 162 congressional candidates to support a strong drug measure in the coming session. (a publication of the AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, 2002)

In Iowa, for example, he helped raise money for a state-senate candidate, a former United Auto Workers leader who helped Gephardt in the run-up to the 1987 Iowa caucuses. (Boston Phoenix, 2002)

In the run-up to the game against the Eagles, Warner protected his bruised throwing hand by starting practice plays with a football, instead of being hiked the ball. (NFL.com, 2002)
If this word was originally British, as the OED citations--beginning with the Sunday Times  in 1966--seem to suggest, then it has crept unnoticed into American English and become fully naturalized.
(June 20, 2003)