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.
8/6/2020 11:53:36 am
I seem to have a problem with start up, grow up, shut up and up to snuff, while I seem to excel at Smash up and dust up.
8/6/2020 01:21:15 pm
As my loving wife regularly says, "It's good to have attainable goals."
W. Colin Mckay
8/8/2020 11:33:26 am
While thinking about current politics, it came my attention that cover-up is missing.
8/8/2020 03:08:27 pm
Ha! Good to hear from you Colin -- you'll notice this is post is titled "Up #1". There will be more!
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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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