English is Weird: Starting With the Word 'UP'

Posted by Lee Densmer
on Fri, Mar 01, 2013 @ 08:33 AM

English is Weird - Starting With the Word UPEnglish is weird, hard to learn, and often hard to translate.

An article on this showed UP in my email inbox this week, and I thought I’d share it with you. While I didn't dream it UP, I found out, after looking it UP on the web, that the article's content might originally come from here. I enjoyed reading UP on it, and I made UP the parallel between the uses of the word and localization. (It gets worse from here).

UP can be a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition. This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word. If you were to check, it is listed in the dictionary as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but consider these things.  

  1. We wake UP
  2. At a meeting, topics come UP
  3. People speak UP
  4. Incumbent officers are UP for election
  5. It is UP to the secretary to write UP a report
  6. We call UP our friends
  7. We take UP with the wrong crowd
  8. You can brighten UP a room
  9. We polish UP the silverware
  10. I warm UP the leftovers and then I clean UP the kitchen
  11. We lock UP the house
  12. People fix UP the old car
  13. My sister always stirs UP trouble
  14. We line UP for tickets
  15. She works UP an appetite
  16. You think UP excuses

At other times, this little word gives a concept some special meaning:

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

And some uses of UP are confusing:

A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

And a few more, for fun:

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP into the earth. When it does not rain for a while, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now since my time is UP. We mess UP, we look UP people in the phone book, and whatever you do is UP to you. 

Can you think of any other English words that have this many different usages?

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English is Weird: Starting With the Word 'UP'
English is difficult to learn. One example is the use of the word 'UP', and the vast number of concepts that contain it.

Lee Densmer

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