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I have heard of the expression mugging up to mean study intensively as before an exam, but would like to know if it can also be used to investigate a hobby. For example, could I use something like:

I spent my summer mugging up butterflies.

I spent my summer mugging up on the topic of butterflies.

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I'm not familiar with this idiom. Is it a Britishism? –  JSBձոգչ Aug 18 '11 at 14:41
    
I am not familiar with this idiom. Is it an Australianism? –  Matt Эллен Aug 18 '11 at 15:29
    
I am not familiar with this idiom. Is it an… oh, nevermind! –  kiamlaluno Aug 18 '11 at 17:17

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Yes you can, but I would use "on":

I spent my summer mugging up on butterflies

and it would imply reading everything I could find about them, not going out and looking at them.

The idiom is well-known in Britain. I don't know if it is known elsewhere.

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My understanding of NGram results (for what they're worth) seems to suggest it was at least as prevalent in the US. It's looking 'dated' in recent decades, having peaked around 50-60 years ago. –  FumbleFingers Aug 18 '11 at 15:22

I don't believe it would make much sense to use it on the context of " I spent my summer's mugging up butterflies" however in the context of "I spent my summers mugging up on the topic of butterflies" Yes... it makes sense.

Mugging up is dervived from the British language and the definition of mugging up is as follows: "Verb: mug up- to cram, grind away, drum, bone up, swot up etc..."

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First time I've heard "the British language", but I suppose it's a counterpart to Mencken's "The American Language". –  Colin Fine Aug 19 '11 at 11:59

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