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Recently I had a conversation with a native speaker. During it he has mentioned some movie reference. I guess he was not sure whether I have got it so he has also sent me a link to that movie supplying it with a phrase:

in case the reference does not cross the pond

Is this phrase something that really exists?

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    Yes. Leftpondia = USA, Rightpondia = UK, transpondial = transatlantic. Aug 15 '20 at 6:38
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    Leftpondia, Rightpondia, and transpondial, etc are popular terms in the alt.usage.english and alt.english.usage Usenet newsgroups, which is where I first saw them. The groups still exist and are carried on Google Groups for those without a Usenet server account. Aug 16 '20 at 8:33
  • If you go to Google Groups and search alt.usage.english for "Leftpondia", one of the first hits is a 900 + post sequence about differing US and British words for sandwiches, hot dogs, sausage rolls, etc, with a digression about pitta vs pita (bread). Aug 16 '20 at 8:39
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    I've literally never heard Leftpondia, Rightpondia, or transpondial.
    – user253751
    Aug 17 '20 at 14:30
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The idiom here is "the pond."

This phrase means the Atlantic Ocean. It is sometimes jocularly used to refer to differences between usages in Great Britain vs the United States, including allusions to pop culture that are not common.

Edit: this is both an American and British usage, and despite referring to a definite body of water, I have never seen it capitalized.

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    The whole phrase, talking about whether some reference "crosses the pond" is idiomatic. "cross" is part of the idiom, in my experience. You don't talk about the Atlantic ocean as "the pond" in other phrasing than "crossing" or "across". Aug 15 '20 at 17:33
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    @gidds The lack of capitalization, as if the Atlantic were just another nameless pond, is a big part of the idiom.
    – StephenS
    Aug 15 '20 at 17:48
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    @PeterCordes I assume the full thought is that the physical ocean between the US/UK (Canada?) is culturally a mere "pond". Pond is for contrasting the nations. That seems to solve those "nopes". Aug 15 '20 at 20:06
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    @OwenReynolds - "It's hardly like going to a real foreign country" - going from the UK to the USA, believe me, it's more like going to a real foreign country than going to France, Spain, or Italy. Aug 15 '20 at 23:37
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    @Kat: Great Britain is the name of the island which contains most of England, Scotland and Wales. Referring to the UK as Great Britain leaves out part of the country (i.e. Northern Ireland). Aug 16 '20 at 16:55
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A similar idiom exist in Australasia viz "across the ditch" referring to the Tasman Sea.

The Pacific Ocean is sometimes referred to as the "big pond" presumably by analogy with the North Atlantic.

Interesting that to emphasize a small linguistic or cultural difference the large physical separation viz an ocean is referred to by a small analogue viz a pond or ditch.

The opposite would also appear true eg the physical separation of the UK from continental Europe is very small but most references seem to magnify that distance.

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Here, "the pond" means the North Atlantic Ocean.

For a reference to "cross the pond", it means that it will be understood by both North Americans and British and Irish people. That is, it's something of North American origin that will be understood by the British and Irish, or something of British or Irish origin that will be understood by North Americans.

Very likely, either you are in North America and your friend is British; or you are in Europe and your friend is American; and they said something that they are worried may only be understood on their own side of the North Atlantic Ocean. There are enough differences between American English and Commonwealth English that it's fairly frequent for an idiom to exist in just one variant, but not the other.

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I suspect some version of the "across the pond" meaning Americas or the US exist in many european languages. In Czech, "za velkou louží" (Across the big puddle) is used to poetically refer to either of them.

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  • Yepp, I have heard Germans say "überm Teich" and mean USA.
    – RedSonja
    Aug 18 '20 at 8:48

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