7

And they fell to upon their frugal supper.

(From Vanity Fair)

I can only find either to fall to, or to fall on / upon, but never to fall to on / upon.

  • 5
    It probably parses as they (fell to) (upon their ...). It may help for you to post more context. – Lawrence Apr 5 '17 at 12:09
  • to my ear, it sounds more of a British idiom than a US idiom... or perhaps a dated or affected American idiom. I could imagine a professor from Haaaavaaard using this construct more easily than I could imagine a casual, 'normal' person using it in the US...however if a Harry Potter character said it..even a student.. it would seem right. My 2cents.. perhaps otehrs would differ .. Good explanations in the answers – Tom22 Apr 5 '17 at 18:05
10

It is a literary idiomatic expression, often used referring to eating:

Fall to (on/upon):

  • Energetically begin an activity, set to work, as in As soon as they had the right tools, they fell to work on the house.

  • This expression is also often used to mean "begin to eat." Charles Dickens so used it in American Notes (1842): "We fall-to upon these dainties." [Late 1500s]

(AHD)

Usage Examples

From: Robin Hood/King Arthur's Knights:

  • So we quarrelled, and by and by we fell to upon that fight in which thou did see us engaged."

From Sea-cursed:

  • I have already mentioned, and so fell-to upon a very hearty supper; but, as we ate, each man had his weapon stuck in the sand beside him; for we had knowledge that the valley held some devilish thing....

More usage examples are available in Google Books.

  • Thank you. Does "AHD" mean The American Heritage Dictionary? – ΥΣΕΡ26328 Apr 5 '17 at 12:11
  • Very useful, indeed. Is this idiomatic usage still in use today? – ΥΣΕΡ26328 Apr 5 '17 at 12:15
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    @user26328 - It is idiomatic usage, it is a literary expression, not very common now I'd say, see here for other examples: books.google.com/ngrams/… – user66974 Apr 5 '17 at 12:16
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    A similar phrase is set to which means to commence to do something with determination or enthusiasm... "After the third complaint, he set to repairing the leaky faucet" – barbecue Apr 5 '17 at 15:56
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    @user26328 actually, you could say "they set to upon their meal" but it would probably mean that they got into a fight on the dinner table. Set to means to dive in enthusiastically, but is also often used to mean a fight or argument. My point in mentioning it was that it's a similar verb phrase combining a verb with to. – barbecue Apr 7 '17 at 14:00

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