On the grow

A somewhat unusual turn of phrase I heard today on BBC Radio 4 was “on the grow“. The programme was called Where England Meets Wales, and they were taking about the increase in the number of speakers of Welsh in north east Wales. The context was:

I’m not entirely sure why, if compared to Scots Gaelic or Cornish, it’s thrived, but I think it’s something that really symbolises the Welsh nation, and as a nation we’re incredibly passionate about having the language and keeping alive. What’s really encouraging is that there’s a high number of Welsh learners in every county, so it is on the grow, and it’s growing very quickly.

Have you heard this construction before?

This entry was posted in English, Language.

9 Responses to On the grow

  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Yes, I think I’ve heard it, and it doesn’t strike me as odd in the passage you quote. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if you hadn’t drawn attention to it.

  2. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’m not sure of the speaker’s analysis of why Welsh survives. Was Scots Gaelic ever (in historical times) widely spoken in the densely populated parts of Scotland? Cornwall has almost no natural barrier to traffic with Devon. (OK, there is the Tamar, but it’s easy enough to cross.) Contrast this with Wales: once I drove from Birmingham to Aberystwyth, and was very struck by how abruptly the good agricultural land stops at the border. There is a very substantial area in which the English were willing to leave the Welsh to live their lives without too much interference.

  3. Petréa Mitchell says:

    I’ve never heard that one. The similarly constructed phrase “on the mend”, for someone who’s recovering from illness or injury, is common in US English.

  4. Yenlit says:

    ‘On the increase’ would be the more normal phrase and I’ve never heard ‘on the grow’ before either nor do I consider it unusual or odd, rather it’s a variation on the ‘on the X’ turn of phrase: ‘on the go’, ‘on the mend’, ‘on the rob’, ‘on the job’ &c.

  5. I wouldn’t have noticed it if you didn’t point it out either. I’ve definitely heard it before but I think the more common usage would be “on the rise.”

    For instance type them both into google in quotes. “On the grow” brings in 1,890,000 results, while “On the rise” brings in 191,000,000 results.

  6. Christopher Miller says:

    It sounds to me like it probably started relatively recently as a neologism by analogy with “on the wane” and other similar expressions (cf. Petrea and Yenlit).

    For Athel:
    I always understood that the Scottish Lowlands were always (post-Roman era at least) Scots (“Inglis”) speaking, whereas the Highlands alone were settled by Gaelic-speaking Irish sometime in the early post-Roman era. Anyone have better information than I do about htis?

  7. michael farris says:

    The Simpsons episode “$pringfield” (s5 ep10) begins with 50’s style newsreel about Springfield which ends with the words: “So watch out, Utica: Springfield is a City On the…Grow!”

  8. Simon says:

    Christopher – Gaelic arrived in Scotland from Ireland during the 5th century AD. By the 12th century it had developed into a separate language (Scottish Gaelic) and was spoken throughout Scotland. Between the 13th and 16th centuries Gaelic retreated to the highlands and islands of Scotland and was replaced by varieties of English in the lowlands.

  9. dreaminjosh says:

    I think “on the grow” sounds awkward. I’ve never heard it before except for in the Simpsons reference that was given. “Grow” sounds strange with a definite article in front of it.

    “The rise of X” (sounds normal)

    “The grow of X” (uhhh, not so much)

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