on the ground = 'in the world'

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 19 01:41:24 UTC 2011

Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> You're undoubtedly right, but I noticed Thomson's use because within the
> past day or so I heard a clearer ex. on CNN, which I can't find on line.
> It seemed to compare what low-income mothers faced "on the ground" as
> opposed to something in theory.

There is another expression containing "on the ground" that may fit
the CNN usage that you outline: "facts on the ground". Wikipedia has
an entry relating the term to the situation in the Middle East.
However, the term is also used more broadly:

One Illness Away: Why People Become Poor and How They Escape Poverty - Page 148
Anirudh Krishna - 2010 - 256 pages – Preview
A negative image of the poor—portraying them as lazy, or dissolute, or
otherworldly—does not do justice to the facts on the ground. The vast
majority of poor people do not sit idly by,

Justice for the Poor Participant's Guide: Love God. Serve People. ... - Page 46
Jim Wallis, Sojourners, Rose Marie Berger - 2010
If global poverty statistics are not disseminated accurately, the
facts on the ground will only get worse — thanks ... that economics
are relationships, and that our present-day global economics are
killing poor people around the world. ...

Here is the expression in another context:
The Rhetoric That Shaped The Abortion Debate
NPR June 28, 2010
Abortion could now be a very safe medical procedure when done properly
and under the right conditions. And so the facts on the ground had
changed: Women were having secret abortions in large numbers; there
was a good deal of medical bad consequences and suffering because of
this, and it was really the public health doctors who sounded the

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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