Over the years we English speakers have had many ways to say that something is truly fine. Here are a few of them.
1702 - tip-top - most excellent, as what is most excellent is top of the heap.
1811 - up to snuff - This idiom showed up some 160 years after the practice of inhaling powdered tobacco into the nose became all the rage in England. Its original meaning was sharp, wide awake, not easy to deceive, & most likely reflects the somewhat caffeine-like effects of snorting powdered tobacco.
1848 - top-notch - Etymologists assume this idiom may come from a game of some sort, but no one is certain. Like tip-top, top-notch denotes something that is most excellent.
1866 - hunky-dory - satisfactory, or just fine. Nobody’s certain of this idiom’s source. One school of etymologists thinks it may have come from the earlier word hunkey - also meaning satisfactory, which came from the word hunk, an inner-city New York slang term used to refer to home-base, a safe place during games like tag. Others suggest hunky-dory is a mispronunciation of Honcho dori, a street in Yokohoma, Japan, infamous for the sailorly diversions it offered. Both are intriguing & believable possibilities, but neither has been nailed down as fact.
1953 - peachy-keen, meaning most excellent. This figure of speech appears to have grown out of peachy, used to mean attractive since 1900, & keen, which in 1900 became a term of approval among the teenage population. Interestingly, keen is a word of many sometimes contradictory meanings: bold, brave, fearless, prudent, wise, able, eager, ardent, sharp, loud, shrill, biting, bitter, & cutting.
What other ways do you know of verbally approving of something? Please leave your examples in the comments section.
Thanks to this week’s sources, Etymonline.com, the OED, Merriam-Webster, Collins English Dictionary ,& Wordnik.com.
The versatile two-letter word up can function in English as an adverb, noun, verb, or adjective. Up plays a role in countless idioms & compound words. I hope you enjoy the few that follow.
1400 – shut up - This idiom’s original meaning was to keep from view or use. It wasn’t until 1814 that it applied to shutting one’s mouth.
1530s – grow up -- This idiom may have come from the late 1300s term grown-up, which was originally an adjective meaning mature, & added its noun meaning an adult in 1813. The directive, grow up, meaning be sensible, showed up in 1951.
1550s – start-up – This verb, meaning rise up, came from the term upstart, which appeared back in 1200. By the 1590s start-up added to its meanings, come suddenly into being.
1811 - up to snuff - This idiom appeared some 160 years after the practice of inhaling powdered tobacco into the nose became all the rage in England. Its original meaning was sharp, wide awake, not easy to deceive, & most likely reflects the somewhat caffeine-like effects of snorting powdered tobacco.
1830 – seven-up – A children’s game that added a new & carbonated meaning in 1928.
1841 – smash up – A collision.
1897 – dustup – This term means a fight. It probably grew out of the 1680s ironic idiom to dust someone’s coat, which meant to beat someone soundly.
1977 - upload – A word we hear & understand constantly these days, yet just a few decades ago it would have left us all with wrinkled brows.
Please use the comments section to tell me what’s up.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster, Wordnik, Etymonline, & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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