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Keep WHAT Up?

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Hey, Linguists!

You know, what’s interesting about language is its natural lean to adopt common phrases and expressions that eventually get so sewn into the fabric of our everyday speech that we use them without even realizing it. For example, ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ originated from lumberjacks losing their axeheads as they got loose and flew off. You can read more about that right here. But for today’s Blog post we’re going to keep it up.

Today we’re examining the origin of the phrase ‘Keep it Up’. This one really surprises me. I would have assumed this was just a natural shorthand for ‘keep up the good work’. You tell someone this as encouragement for them to continue doing something. Or it’s a sarcastic warning a parent might use with a child who’s trying their patience, ‘keep it up’.

I expected the ‘it’ in ‘Keep it Up’ was simply referring to the job at hand, however, the origin of this saying is too literal for it to be so general. The ‘It’ refers to the shuttlecock of Badminton. 

This phrase began in the 17th Century and it’s no coincidence that Badminton was being popularized in England at just the same time. The object of the sport is to keep a feathered ball or ‘shuttlecock’ from hitting the ground. Spectators of this intriguing sport would start to cheer on the players during a series of intense volleys back and forth by calling out, “Keep it up! Keep it up!”

You can learn more about Badminton from a recent Blog post I wrote when you click right here.

I wish you all the encouragement you may need to keep up the good work you’ve been doing and don’t drop the…shuttlecock. Hope you enjoyed learning the origin of this old phrase today. And, as always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!


- John

Posted in Adage Origin


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