English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The phrase up and at ’em (commonly construed as ?up and Adam) is used a lot. Where did it originate?

share|improve this question
Someone construes that to be “up and Adam”??? I rather disbelieve, but stupidity springs eternal, so maybe so. Sounds like a straight-up eggcorn to me. Also, I think you mean something more like origin or history, not actual etymology. – tchrist Jun 5 '12 at 21:02
I have never heard 'up and Adam'... – Roaring Fish Jun 6 '12 at 7:50

I think it's a contraction and conflation of two orders Get Up! (meaning 'stand and prepare') and Get At Them! (meaning 'attack them'). The and is narrative, meaning 'and then'.

Both of these get's are causative/inchoative senses of be, and therefore phrases like be up and be at them also exist. The rest is just idiom formation, and occasionally spelling confusion and eggcorn creation.

share|improve this answer

The phrase is "up and at 'em" or more accurately "up and at them". According to the Phrase Finder, it probably comes from the military with the full command being "Up, Guards, and at 'em!"

share|improve this answer
That quotation is from Wellngton at Waterloo, but I find it hard to believe the phrase wasn't in use earlier. – TimLymington Jun 5 '12 at 21:41

We use this phrase a lot in Newfoundland where most of our people originated in Ireland. We use the phase as a way to say “get up and start working/moving”.

share|improve this answer

protected by Jason Bourne Jan 19 '13 at 19:20

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.