I do not understand the meaning of this sentence: "What you're not up on, you're down on."

  • 1
    There seem to be different explanations. Warner, in The words of Extraordinary Women, gives her views. Please show your own research. Feb 4, 2017 at 14:57
  • 1
    What do you think it's saying? What research have you done? Where did you hear/see the phrase?
    – Hank
    Feb 4, 2017 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


This aphorism plays on the directional antonyms up and down, each of which is used in its own non-directional idiom.

To be up on something is to be familiar or knowledgeable about it. To be down on something is to disapprove of it. Here's an illustration of the former:

One reviewer for the North American Review, who was obviously not up on his Puritan history, objects to the novel....

That is, the reviewer was ignorant of the relevant history. And one for the opposite direction:

As the punk movement's identity came into sharper focus over the coming months, it revealed itself to be very much down on love and longterm or monogamous relationships.

So punk rockers didn't think much of traditional romantic relationships.

Putting things together when you're not up on something, you're down on it means that you disapprove of what things you don't know about. In other words, the default position of ignorance is disapproval.

I can trace the usage back online to the 1972 edition of Saga, the yearbook of the Warren Travis White High School of Dallas, Texas. Under his senior class picture, David Lawrence Teddlie has imparted

Prejudice is being down on what we are not up on.

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