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Every time you call a customer service center they say: let me pull up your account, please. Is it correct to say that? Oxford dictionary explains pull up a little bit differently:

pull up 1 (of a vehicle or its driver) come to a halt: he pulled up outside the cabin. 2 increase the altitude of an aircraft.

pull someone up cause someone to stop or pause; check someone: the shock of his words.


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closed as general reference by jwpat7, Gnawme, Daniel, Matt Эллен, Mitch Jan 17 '12 at 14:23

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is general reference; see eg pull up in wiktionary: "(idiomatic) retrieve; get. [e.g.] Pull up that website for me, it looks quite interesting. " –  jwpat7 Jan 16 '12 at 19:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

"Pull up", "punch up", or "bring up" is an idiom specific to computer operation. It means to enter a command on the computer terminal, causing a record to be retrieved and displayed. For some examples in context, Google [ computer jargon "pull up" ].

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So does it imply that it can only be used with computers in the context above? –  user17857 Jan 16 '12 at 18:58
Yes, the idiom is used only with a computing device. For example, you cannot pull up, punch up, or bring up a number in the telephone directory if it is a printed edition. But if your directory is online, then you can. –  MετάEd Jan 16 '12 at 19:07
But Kate explains it differently. Can your elaborate on that? –  user17857 Jan 16 '12 at 19:08
Kate's answer (1) speculates (asserts an origin of the computer-specific idiom) without supporting evidence; and (2) largely digresses into examples of usage which are unrelated to record retrieval. –  MετάEd Jan 16 '12 at 19:55
In the old days, before computers, you would either pull out a file or pull a file, but not pull up a file. With computers, I assume the verb stayed the same but the preposition become up because the file went up on the screen. See this Ngram. –  Peter Shor Jan 16 '12 at 22:10

Those definitions aren't wrong, they're just not the only way a literal use of pull up has become a metaphorical one. "Pulling up your account" refers to the idea of lifting a sheet of paper or a file of papers from a drawer in order to look at it.

Some of the other meanings are complicated. Cars and buses can pull up to a curb (or kerb), boats can pull up to a dock, and a patron can "belly up" to the bar - these senses all have to do with reaching a destination, and with coming very close but not quite touching. Trains occasionally pull up to platforms, too. Not all stopping is pulling up. You can pull up at a red light, or your final destination, but other stops in the journey would not be described as pulling up.

Pulling you up to stop you, especially in the set phrase "pull you up short" refers to pulling hard on the reins of a horse - whether riding or driving - when you are above them. Pulling back means slow down and can be gentle. Hard yanking back and up stops the horse more quickly, and less pleasantly for all involved.

Finally the airplane one is pretty darn literal, referring to a control system where you pull towards you to make the plane go up, and push away from you to make it go down.

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Pre-computers, files were pulled out or just pulled but not pulled up. See this Ngram. –  Peter Shor Jan 16 '12 at 22:09
Do you have any citation or evidence for the claim that "pull up your account" refers to the idea of lifting a sheet of paper from a drawer? (I have two sources that claim it originated from other "pull up" metaphors and not from any physical pulling up.) –  David Schwartz Jan 17 '12 at 7:15

I was going to say that I thought it came from the idea of pulling up a file from a drawer to look at it, but somebody already mentioned that... other than that, I was going to suggest that perhaps "Let me just access your account info" might be more strictly correct, but maybe not. :)

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From the "White Collar Holler" : "Hey boys, can't you code it (huh!), and program it right - nothin' ever happens in this life of mine, I been hauling up the data on the the Xerox line."

"Pull up" or "bring up" seems painfully obvious to some of us....


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