6/3/11 What’s Up With ‘Up’?
Some words are easy to understand, but hard to explain. Take the word 'up' for example. A word about as simple and basic as they come. If asked you might define it as the opposite of down, or hold up a finger pointing toward the sky or ceiling and say, "That way."
Yet, that's probably not the most common use of the word. Our speech is peppered with the word where it has no directional meaning. If pressed, it'd be pretty hard to explain its meaning in many cases. It's like a helper word that doesn't seem to mean anything at all.
Take the following: save up, add up, divide up, pay up, round up, wake up, shake up, phone up, call up, blow up, ball up, mix up, mess up, screw up, light up, lighten up, wake up, shut up, cramp up, rip up, tear up, listen up.
Why 'up' in any of those cases? Is there a direction involved?
Next up there's: clean up, follow up, dress up, open up, drink up, eat up, saddle up, settle up, back up, start up, dry up, wash up, button up, bundle up, cook up, crack up, shape up, fix up, fill up, take up, loosen up, use up.
All these things seem to go up not down. Though not always. A relationship can break down so you break up. Unless you make up, but you can't make down. Then you can get beat down or beat up. About the same thing and neither is very pleasant.
Thing is, 'up' has more meanings than you probably ever imagined. In my dictionary there are seventeen definitions as an adverb, sixteen as an adjective, four as a preposition, two as a noun, and two as a verb. If we go further we find three more definitions as a prefix as in upbeat, updraft, uphill and so on.
You don't have to take my word for it, you can look it up. I didn't make it up. I'm on the up and up.