Sunday, February 23, 2014
Everybody seems to be upping these days. One television commercial after another has someone either upping or wanting to up. And if you personally have not upped recently, then you must be in a deep coma or dead ~ because everyone seems to be upping or wanting to up.
Well, I am here to state that I dislike the new verb that's being trumpeted left and right, just about everywhere you turn: to up. While I was growing up, we never upped anything. We might increase this or that, but we never upped this or that. We never planned to up our knowledge of anything, but we might enlarge or enhance our knowledge. And we most assuredly did not up our game, although we might try to become better at what we did.
It seems that only recently, i.e. over the past five years or so, the verb form of the word up has been used so extensively. For the first half a century or so of my life I never heard anyone using the word up as a verb. As I mentioned above, nowadays it seems that hardly a day passes that you don't hear the word up being used as a verb by someone in the news media, on a television or radio commercial, or on a website. For a number of years I endured working for a boss who felt that he had to abbreviate words. My boss's boss told him that his reports were "too wordy", and that he needed to reduce them somewhat. Instead of realizing that his boss meant that he should condense his thoughts into smaller, more concise sentences, my boss thought that he should cut down the words themselves. So, instead of writing out the word through, my boss would write thru. Instead of approximately, my boss would write apxx. My boss's paragraphs still contained two hundred sentences and his sentences still contained eighty to one hundred words, but most of his words contained 20% less letters. I disliked my boss's misguided attempt to follow his boss's directive. So when my senses began to be bombarded with one person upping this and another person upping that, instead of the first simply increasing this and the latter intensifying that, I found myself disliking it more and more.
Now, although the use of the word up as a verb has, in recent years, upped tremendously, such usage is not new. A check of the Oxford English Dictionary reveals that there are actually seven senses of the use of the word up as a verb. The earliest evidence of the usage of the word as a verb can be found circa 1560-1. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first sense of the word as a verb was to drive up and catch, and it was illustrated: "For uppyng the ground byrde in porte meade." In 1584-5, the Order For Swans directed that "The Swan-heard...shall vp no Swan nor make any sale of them, without the Maister of the Swannes...be present." The second sense of the word as a verb was to make up, form or compose and was illustrated by the 1658: "And Animal together blow'd and made. And up'd of all the shreds of every Trade." The third sense of the word as a verb was to raise up (a weapon, etc.) esp, to or upon the shoulder. This third sense was illustrated by the 1887 "She ups her stick and begins to belabour him across the shoulders." The fourth sense of the word as a verb was a nautical term meaning to heave or haul. The fifth sense of the word as a verb was noted as a term used in card-playing: to raise (a bid, stake, etc.). The sixth sense of the word as a verb was to rise to one's feet; to get up from a sitting or recumbent posture, as illustrated by the 1643 "The true-bred Gamester ups a fresh, and then, Falls to 't agen." The seventh, and last, sense of the word as a verb was to move upwards, to arise or ascend as illustrated by the 1737 "A chimney-sweeper ups and downs it in a Chimney, with his long broom."
Who am I to argue with a word usage dating back to at least the 1560s? I guess I'll up my knowledge . . . that is, after I up from my chair to get something to eat.