Up for anything

ONE thought leads to another, randomly speaking. Well, like, I was thinking about the transiency of the commercial jingles that jangle the airwaves. There was the soaring airline ditty that had us all flying ''Up, up, and awa-a-ay!'' You don't hear that anymore. At least, I don't. So much for the vagaries of commercials. But the repeated ''ups'' in the line got me to thinking ''up,'' or thinking up. I'm not sure which came first.

What an extraordinarily serviceable and adaptable little preposition ''up'' is. In recent years, for instance, everybody in the wheeler-dealer department has been talking about ''getting the money up front.'' I take it that this means getting paid before any effort, service, activity, or commitment is undertaken. Presumably, there is some protective clause to prevent people who get their money up front from backing down or out. Then you have the homogenization, ''upscale.'' Upscale people undoubtedly get their money up front.

And what about your Yuppies and Yumpies? They are your young, upwardly mobile (or upscale?) people. ''Yuppies'' could be short for ''Yupmobiles.'' They are on top or rising fast. But where would they be without the designating preposition? Certainly not ''downies.''

''Up'' figures so frequently in usage that we scarcely pay it any attention. Cheerful people are ''upbeat.'' Tense people are ''uptight.'' Honest people are ''on the up and up.'' Rude people tell you to ''put up or shut up'' - combining a proposition with a preposition. Someone has to ''wind up'' the details of a project that's ''winding down.'' But it's always ''onward and upward with the arts.''

''Up'' can serve authors for titles like the inspirational ''Up from Slavery, '' the ironical ''Up the Down Staircase,'' the farcical ''Up in Mabel's Room,'' or the comical ''Up Pops the Devil.'' There was once a Broadway race-track comedy entitled ''The Up and Up.'' Unfortunately, it folded up after 81 performances.

Back in World War II, American GIs had an acronym for utter confusion, a state in which they frequently found themselves. It was ''SNAFU,'' which being politely translated meant ''Situation normal - all fouled up.'' After an honorable discharge, SNAFU was adopted into civilian ranks and became part of the language. Speaking of wars, near the end of the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington ordered the attack with ''Up, Guards, and at them!'' (When I was in high school, we fearless punsters thought '' 'Up and atom,' said the molecule'' was pretty neat.)

''Up'' has even been used to illustrate the absurdities of some too-rigid grammatical constructions. Like the one about a preposition being a bad thing to end a sentence with. It was Winston Churchill who mocked the syntactical purists with: ''This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.'' And I'm almost sure it was Churchill who opted for ''It's me'' instead of ''It's I.'' But in matters of usage, I refuse to be dogmatic. It's up to you.

If you think I exaggerate the importance of ''up'' in our lives and conversations, just try to imagine a day or a verbal interaction (love that jargon) without the use of ''up.'' It would be uproarious. The language luxuriates in words with which ''up'' can be used as an auxiliary. Words like ''add,'' ''bind,'' ''carve,'' ''divvy,'' ''ease,'' and ''fix.'' That's just for alphabetical starters. List compilers can take it from there.

I still don't know what happened to ''Up, up, and awa-a-ay!'' Retired and given up, I suppose. But I'm glad nothing has happened to upset ''up.''

In any case, my time is up.

Have an up day!

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