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.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Up #2

Up #2

The word up was spelled in a number of ways in Old English, including up & uppe. It meant up or upward & came from the Proto-Indo-European word upo, which also gave us the Greek word hypo (as in hypo-allergenic, hypochondriac & hypodermic).

In last week’s post I mentioned that up performs as an adverb, noun, verb & adjective. I missed something. Up also functions as a preposition.

Adverb – Marcel walks up the hill.
Adjective - Ophelia seems up today.
Verb - The grocer upped the price of blueberries today.
Noun - The market has its ups & downs.
Preposition - Madeleine’s speedy departure left Stanley up in the air.

And here are a few more uppish idioms:

1847 – The term getup (or get-up) refers to one’s costume. This appears to have come from the 1841 idiom getup meaning initiative or energy.

1853 – upholster is referred to by linguists as a “back formation” because it appears to be a base word, but actually came from the longer word (from 1610) upholsterer, which refers to a person who fixes furniture. Upholsterer comes from the word upholdester, which came from the word upholden back in the 1300s, and meant repair, uphold, keep from falling or sinking.

1891 – To send someone up the river, meaning to send someone to jail, originated in New York City, as the prison Sing Sing was up the Hudson River from the city.

1947 – upbeat, meaning with a positive mood, comes from the 1869 musical term upbeat, which labels the beat during a bar when the conductor’s baton is pointed upward.

1951 - To drive someone up the wall, meaning to annoy or irritate, came from the observed behavior of some animals (& patients) in cages.

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. What a great, all-purpose word. I like the idea of spelling it "uppe". Sounds so much more "up-per" class. :-)

  2. Uppe, indeed. I particularly liked the connection to hypo-, and being an amateur upholsterer, I love the idea that in such efforts I am "upholding" the furniture.

  3. I like the 1841 idiom "getup" meaning initiative or energy. This must be where "getup and go" comes from. Sure wish I had more of that these days. P.

  4. Paul, I'm with you. Was it Lee Hayes or Pete Seeger who wrote "My get up and go has got up and went"?

  5. I can most relate to "up the wall" at the present time. As I have a house guest who has been here for a month and it is driving me up the wall over the fence and out of my house as much a possible!

  6. Christine - I can fell your up-the-wallness. May your houseguest resolve himself soon & stop leaving you up a creek.