What’s up with the word up?

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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What two letter word in the English language has more definitions that up? I dare you to find one that tops this little word.

In the bottom left-hand column of page 1,327 in my American Heritage Dictionary, the word, up, begins its long list of definitions, one so long that it consumes 41 lines of print. It can be used an adjective, adverb, noun, preposition or verb.

While it is extremely easy to define the post popular use of the word, up, as in looking from a lower to a higher position (“looking up in the sky”) or moving higher on a list (“my grades are up”….well, that’s not really the case for those that knew me back in high school), why is it when we first get up in the morning we reference it as the time was “wake up.” Why don’t we just wake or awaken?

At a meeting, why does a topic come up? Why do we speak up? Why are political seats up for election? Why is it up to the secretary to write up a report?

We call up our friends; brighten up a room; polish up the silver; warm up the leftovers, and clean up the kitchen. We lock up the house and fix up the old car.

We stand up for the National Anthem.

Some people may work up an appetite. How many of us have lined up for tickets to see a movie or a concert?

I’m not speaking from experience when I say that some folks like to make up an excuse.

At other times, this little word has real special meaning. People stir up trouble (which could later lead to a person being brought up on charges).

To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed up is special.

And this use of the word up is confusing: A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up. Isn’t that opposing definitions of the word?

Here is another head-scratcher – We open up a store in the morning, but we close it up at night. We seem to be pretty mixed up about up!

The ending of a relationship is also known as a break up.

Back during their time as criminals, Bonnie and Clyde pulled off a string of successful stick-ups. But in the end, law enforcement officers finally caught up with them.

If you are up to it, you might try building up a list of the many ways up is used. It will take up a lot of your time, but if you don’t give up you may wind up with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing up. When it rains, it soaks up the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things tend to dry up.

There’s the term “up in arms” when people get angry.

Or you might get beat up in a fight.

If you want to make something more exciting, it’s known as “jazz it up.”

While flying to your vacation destination, you’re up in the air.

If you’re down on luck and caught in a tight situation, some may say you are “up the creek without a paddle.”

If you are unable to move due to an injury, you’re “laid up.”

If you are overweight, you might be asked to “shape up.”

Have you been selected to pass along information? If so, then it is up to you to do so.

If you have a little devilish spirit, you may be judged as up to no good. If that lifestyle leads to death, people will say, “his time was up.”

In a game of poker, you’re asked to ante up.

If you opt to tell of your past transgressions or are always truthful, then you are known to be on the up and up.

In baseball, a team can be up by a run. The umpire will shout, “batter up.” That batter may hit a pop up or belt a pitch up in the bleachers….making the score 1-0 (which a fan may remark: “We’re up by one”).

Golfers often complete an “up-and-down” (the act of taking just two strokes to get your golf ball into the hole when your ball is resting around the green or in a greenside bunker).

If you’re a really good actor or actress, you may be up for an Oscar.

If you closely watch what happens on Wall Street, hopefully your stocks are up.

In some medical cases, it’s always wise to follow up with your doctor.

Then there are words containing up. A person can be upbeat, or upset, or uptight, or upright. They may cause an uproar, or provide you with an update. While flying, some may want to upgrade to first class. Or they may choose to uproot and move to another town where they can tell their new neighbors about their upbringing.

One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up for now, leaving you with one more thing. What is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night?

U P.

Did you get that?

Okay, I shut up for now.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or at 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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