Some Fun with UP: A Much-Used Two-Letter Word

UP is much-used and sometimes redundant wordAs we venture into that time of year we refer to as “the holidays,” let’s take a moment to have a little fun with grammar. The tiny word UP has more uses than you might guess. It can be an adverb, a preposition, an adjective, a noun and a verb.

As often as UP appears in this post, this Ruthless Editor must point out that UP often is redundant.

Yet UP is so ingrained in our vernacular that sometimes even I don’t give it a thought. How about you? Are you UP for it?

Let me begin by thanking you for opening UP this email. (Redundancy No. 1 and counting … where else would you eliminate it?)

It’s easy to understand UP when it means the direction of the sky, but why, when we awaken in the morning, do we wake UP … and then get UP?

When an organization meets, why does a topic come UP for discussion? Why do we speak UP, and why are some members UP for election? Why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends, chat them UP, then pick them UP, and take them to a movie that lifts all of us UP.

Before a holiday meal, we polish UP the silver, then we put UP with relatives we really might not like very much, and after they leave we clean UP the kitchen. The next day, we warm UP the leftovers.

Did that one crack you UP?

We’ve been known to lock UP the house, fix UP the car, redecorate a room to brighten it UP, and cheer ourselves UP by eating UP all of the ice cream we can get our hands on.

At one time or another, we describe how people stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite and think UP excuses. We hope our favorite team will, if not win the game, at least even UP the score.

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

Why do we call a plumber when we have a drain that is stopped UP?

If you work in banking and your manager is ill, maybe you pick UP the key to open the branch, help customers who drive UP, answer questions for people mixed UP about their account balance, and then close UP and lock UP the branch at the end of the day.

Some of you make UP excuses, and some of you make UP your face.

When it looks as though it might rain, we say it is clouding UP. When it finally does rain, we say the earth soaks it UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it does not rain for a time, we say things are drying UP.

If you have a question about this useful word, look it UP. And if you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of your own. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you might wind UP with a hundred or more.

It’s UP to you, so don’t screw UP!

I think my time is UP, so I’ll wrap UP.

Please note that I did not include “shut UP.” It’s a pair of words I avoid, and I hope others do as well.

If you came UP with at least 20 redundancies — nearly a third of the total — we agree!

Please share this with the word lovers in you life.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

2 thoughts on “Some Fun with UP: A Much-Used Two-Letter Word

  1. Avatarwilliam

    And a charming difference between English and American English. A true story from my totally English high school Latin teacher: He was telling about his family’s reaction to the news in 1945 that President Roosevelt had died; and how his father was so distraught he “went next door and knocked up the neighbor’s wife.”

    You can imagine the effect on a roomful of teenage American boys.

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