What's UP with our wonderful English language?

So, you think two little letters can’t get you into big trouble…?

Listen UP.

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awake in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election? Why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends, and we use paint to brighten UP a room. We polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers, and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house (unless there is a real crisis, in which case we lock it DOWN), and some people fix UP old cars and houses. When they’re done, what do they call it…? A “fixer-UPPER”.

At other times, this seemingly innocuous little word truly holds special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special! Listening is good, but listening UP demands extra attention. The phrase, “Put UP or shut UP!” would be meaningless without UP (and even with UP, it’s a little complicated to explain…).


Is your translator catching such nuances…?

The list goes on (or rather, the examples keep adding UP). A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. Or maybe it’s clogged UP in your house, and you have to shut it DOWN. Either way, UP and DOWN are far from opposites at times!

We open UP a store in the morning, and we close it UP at night. If we close it DOWN, we are out of business entirely.


What if your translator missed that one word…?

Indeed, the world seems to be pretty mixed UP about UP. Why do we travel UP the street and DOWN the road…?

To familiarize yourself with UP, look it UP in the dictionary. UP takes UP quite a lot of space, and definitions add UP to about thirty.

If you are UP to it, you might try drawing 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 hundreds of options even the dictionary didn’t include!

If you do not personally feel UP for the challenge, call a local start-UP and ask a few young entrepreneurs moving UP the corporate ladder. They will confirm this essay is but the tip of the iceberg.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, it is clearing UP. Acne can also clear UP if you have a good dermatologist, but that is only after the pimples pop UP. After a rain, things dry UP, and once again, pimples can fall into that same category, but only if that same doc is UP on the latest treatments.

The list could go on and on. Nonetheless, it’s time to wrap it UP for now. Time is UP, so this author opts to shut UP.

Now you are caught UP on UP!

If you are not confused (or a little impressed) after reading this, you are either messed UP, or too stuck UP to admit it. Whatever the case, don’t let the infinite nature of this discourse get you DOWN…

Edited and published by Come Alive Communications Inc.

Contributions and inspiration from linguists around the world.

©Copyright 2015 Come Alive Communications Inc.