Merriam-Webster defines the online verb as “take over.”To assume control or possession or responsibility [e.g.] Military leaders take responsibility government.” So I was surprised to read yesterday’s article The Wall Street Journal The following main paragraph (“Rishi Sunak won the vote to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after the resignation of Liz Truss):

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, who warned that Liz Truss’s economic plans for Britain were a “fairy tale”, won the race to succeed him as prime minister on Monday, taking charge of the world’s sixth-largest economy at a time of deep financial and political turmoil. .

Not “surprised” because it makes no sense to think that the British Prime Minister, as the representative of the sovereign people in an unfettered democracy, is really in charge of the economy. Most people may think so and they are not wrong as long as Mr. Sunak is at the top of the state. I was surprised because no one expressed these thoughts with the frankness usually displayed by the two journalists or their editors.

I suspect journalists will tell me they use the expression “take over” in a metaphorical sense. But some rhetoric may express the zeitgeist of the times. I had a passing comment on Friedrich Hayek The Road to Serfdomwhich was written in England, where the future Nobel economist still lived. I could think of Anthony de Jas’s plantation kingdom.

I asked two dear friends who are more familiar with Shakespeare’s language than I am what they thought of the use of the verb “take over” there. One replied, the other approvingly:

The word “take over” sounds like he’s driving a bus or running a company from the top-down. This makes it sound like an asset to the British economy.

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