One on one ………. or One to one?
PBS Newshour is reporting this evening that “President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have agreed to negotiate one-on-one in an effort to broker a deal to prevent the country from going over the so-called fiscal cliff at year’s end.”
Don’t worry: this isn’t a post about the fiscal cliff — even though we are all wondering what exactly this econo-geographical phenomenon actually is, and we’ve all probably imagined what it might look like …
No, let’s get back to this interesting meeting. Other US news media outlets are also reporting on and speculating about this imminent one-on-one encounter, focusing more on the issue of the steep drop ahead than on the manner in which the President and the Speaker will go head-to-head, face-to-face, man-to-man…
I expect most British-English speakers who have read this far are trying to rid their minds of more — let’s say — “intimate” images conjured up by the advertised one-on-one meeting.
Yes, in Br.Eng. we keep these meetings — these face-to-face, head-to-head, man-to-man, toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, eye-to-eye tete-a-tetes — strictly one to another, never allowing the use of one of those highly suggestive conjunctions such as “on” that imply or even hint at the possibility of any undesirable physical contact.
A teacher offering her student a one-on-one tutoring session, or a vicar counseling a lost soul in his flock one on one*, would raise more than a few eyebrows (and probably a few temperatures) in that green and pleasant land called England.
We know exactly what our American counterparts mean, but we’re going to keep it strictly business: mind to mind, sword to sword, face to face. Save the ons for wrestlers and dolphins.
* the question of whether the expression should be hyphenated or not, as probably determined by whether it’s used as an adjective or an adverb, is for separate discussion