Voice of America, “‘Man Up’ has Long Been Part of the American Vernacular”

May 28, 2014

Matthew Hilburn, “‘Man Up’ has Long Been Part of the American Vernacular” (Voice of America, May 28, 2014)

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden should “man up and come back to the United States,” he was using language that has long been a part of manly American vernacular.

From sports to politics, the term “man up” has been more than tossed around the locker room.

The term originally was a way to express the verb “to man” – as in to man the factory with enough manpower, according to New York Times article on the history of the phrase written by language expert Ben Zimmer.

Today, though, the term has sometimes evolved into one more suited to backroom politics or the sports field rather than in the august halls of diplomacy.

According to Zimmer’s explanation to the Times, it is an exhortation used to mean: “Don’t be a sissy. Toughen up” or “Do the right thing; be a mensch, a Yiddish term for an honorable or upright person.”

Zimmer traces the steady rise in use of the term in advertising pointed at men.

Read the rest here.

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