Bulk, balk, baulk

  • Bulk means (1) size, mass, or volume, (2) a large mass or matter, (3) the major portion, (4) to cause to swell or expand, and (5) being in large mass or quantity. The less common balk, usually a verb, means primarily to stop short and refuse to go on. It’s usually followed by the preposition at, though several other prepositions work. Baulk is a British variant of balk. In British publications, balk and baulk are used interchangeably, and both spellings appear about equally often. Canadian writers favor balk, and Australians favor baulk.


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    American and Canadian writers use balk—for example:

    Like any parent, I get frustrated when my kids refuse to eat their broccoli and balk at even tasting pomegranate … [Washington Post]

    At present, U.S. politicians would certainly balk at that. [Ottawa Sun]


    Some British publications favor baulk—for example:

    While most Britons would baulk at the prices, Nadine has become accustomed to Switzerland’s high cost of living. [Telegraph]

    The grooves around which Wretch strings his stories don’t baulk at bearing out the stark messages. [Independent]

    Others use balk:

    It is a perennial pastime of young people, almost a rite of passage, to balk at authority figures. [Guardian]

    [N]ear-zero bank deposit rates limit the choice for investors who may start to balk at chancing exposure to foreign currencies. [Financial Times]


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