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In particular, think of the home air conditioner or the power setting on the kitchen refrigerator: the intensity of effort is opposite to the numbering of the related quality. So "Turn up the air conditioner" can be interpreted as a request to set it colder (make the machine work more) or warmer (change the control to a larger number).

What terms would be good to use instead, that are grammatically equivalent so they are drop-in replacements and don't require re-arranging the sentence, are succinct, and are understandable (even if not immediatly familiar) by folks lacking a Chirchhillesque vocabulary? And, the whole point is that they are completely unambiguous. Ideally the pair of terms should match nicely, but that's not necessary.

I know the confusion can be avoided by phrasing it differently, and that's what I actualy do if I notice it. But I've wondered if there's a better term that could be used in this place that is simply not ambiguous at all.

marked as duplicate by Hot Licks, tchrist Nov 19 '16 at 3:15

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    Given such a context - I would substitute the thing you turn up/down with the result of turning up / down - e.g. "Turn up temperature" – Allan S. Hansen Jun 20 '16 at 6:09
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    Why not just say "raise/lower the temperature setting"? – Hot Licks Jun 20 '16 at 12:26
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    What I could say (that is, something else) is different from wondering whether there exists a drop-in synonym. – JDługosz Jun 20 '16 at 12:48
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    Please turn the thermostat up. or Please turn the thermostat down. – TecBrat Nov 18 '16 at 22:51
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    Please reopen. Not a dupe. The question this was marked as a dupe of doesn't actually cover "what is a suitable alternative phrase?". – AndyT Apr 26 '18 at 8:13

To keep it simple, I'd say you turn the air conditioner hot or cold instead of up or down.

  • 1
    "Cold the air conditioner" or "turn cold the air conditioner" doesn't scan to my ear. – JDługosz Jun 20 '16 at 12:49
  • JDługosz, agreed. Hopefully something closer will come up. – Bookeater Jun 20 '16 at 12:54
  • You could talk about turning the heat up and down. If the ambient temperature was low turning the heat up would mean an increase in the work the heating system was doing, if the ambient temperature was high turning the the heat down would mean an increase in the work the AC was doing. – BoldBen Nov 18 '16 at 23:37

I don't know an existing idiom, but I think increase vs decrease or reduce would work.

increase verb (used with object), increased, increasing. 1. to make greater, as in number, size, strength, or quality; augment; add to
—Dictionary.com, emphasis added; antonym decrease

So when the air conditioning is running (the system used to cool inside air) and you want to say "make it even cooler" you could say

Please increase the A/C.

and if instead you want to say "stop making it so cold in here" or "set the A/C so it aims for a less-cool temperature" (but not "turn on the heating system") you could say

Please decrease/reduce the A/C.

I think strengthen/weaken would also be understandable, but sound a less natural to me in this context.

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