And Away


“This most complicated word requires great subtlety of treatment in dictionaries.  It is used as adverb, preposition, adjective, noun and adverb, and with great diversity within each part of speech.”

Fowler’s Modern English Usage on “Up”

I would love it if the quasi-idiomatic uses of “up” would each grab a helium balloon and float out of the language.  I mean “pack up”, “drink up”, “shake up” and “whip up”.  I mean every time it’s an adverb doing something other than increasing, elevating or announcing who’s in the batter’s box.  Because in these cases, the “something” is “nothing”.

I’ll grant Daniel Plainview the milkshake thing, since you actually drink something “up” from the glass to your mouth, but if you tell me you’re “whipping up” something in the kitchen, forgive me for picturing some greasy ganache or disgusting fish mousse.  Pack up?  Just pack!

I don’t expect anyone to have my back here.  In its seventeen definitions of “up” as an adverb, the American Heritage Dictionary 4th Ed. ensures this is one revolution I’ll never start from my bed–it approves these ugly, illogical constructions several times.

So it’s a personal preference.  I’ll keep it.  Dragging my personal preferences into the sun and hanging them on the clothesline is why I started this blog.

And I grant some exceptions: “Set up” somehow makes perfect sense, and I admit a certain affection for “screw up” and its NSFW brethren.

But how did this little word come to mean… everything?

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