Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Up #1

Up #1

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 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.

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.


  1. Interesting that "shut-up" and "grown-up" are such ancient expressions. But start-up and upload are so recent.

  2. I love up to snuff. It's firmly entrenched in my vocabulary. So much so that during the cocktail hour which happens regularly and promptly at 4PM at our house, I tell Bob, "Let me get that episode of Homeland or Scandal up to snuff," which for me means, turn on the TV, make sure I've got the right program on my DVR ready to go, then freeze it while we get the main attraction ready. Martinis anyone? Hugs, Charlie. Love this. Oh, have you ever done "Faith?" Reason is our writer pal, Victoria Zackheim, has a wonderful new non fiction anthology out and it's mind blowing. Not sure we can make requests here, but what the heck. Thought I'd give it a whirl? Great post as always.

  3. Greetings Steve, Paul & Anne,
    Paul, I've put "faith" on my list of possible topics - thanks. Anne, I'm with you regarding the unlikely eras from which some of these terms come, & Steve, you'll note this post's title is Up# 1.

  4. Thanks, Charlie. Will look forward to it. Always love your blog. P.