The Grammarphobia Blog

It’s about feeling clamorous

Q: I saw this sentence on Slate: “Bush came up with the plan to put 10 anti-missile interceptors and radars on Czech and Polish soil in 2007, and the Russians have been clamoring about it ever since.” Can one clamor “about” something? I thought one could only clamor “for” it.

A: Generally, people clamor “for” or “against” or “to do” something, or they clamor “in support of” or “in opposition to” something.

But they can clamor “about” something as well. And of course they can simply clamor, with no prepositions at all.

The verb “clamor,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.), means to make a din or insistently complain or demand, as well as to influence or bring something about by making a hubbub.

American Heritage says the verb can be both intransitive (meaning it doesn’t need an object), as in “clamored for tax reforms,” and transitive (it has a direct object), as in “clamored their disapproval” or “clamored the mayor into resigning.”

I don’t see any published references in the Oxford English Dictionary for “clamor about,” but I do see a couple for making “a clamor about” something.

Here’s a citation from Fraser’s Magazine in 1837: “No people … make such a blaring about apostasy, and such a clamour about consistency, as the Liberals.”

The verb “clamor” has been in use since about 1400, according to the OED. It was preceded by the noun “clamor,” meaning a shouting or outcry, which has been around since the late 1300s.

The word “clamor’ has been spelled all sorts of ways over the years: “clamur,” “clamure,” “clamoure,” “clamour,” “clamor,” etc. Today, it’s “clamor” in American English and “clamour” in British English.

The source of all this clamor is the Latin clamare, to cry out or shout.

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