A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

By Paul Beale; Eric Partridge | Go to book overview

U

umpah, umpah, stick in up your jumpah!

See: oompah…


umpire.

See: how's that, umpire?


unaccustomed as I am to public speaking.

This cliché has, since c. 1950, been used ironically and esp., quasi-apologetically, by people suffering from no such handicap. (Skehan, 1977.) P.B.: sometimes, just unaccustomed as I am is sufficient.


unbounded assortment of gratuitous untruths-an,

was a Parliamentary c.p. of late 1885-mid 1886. Ware glosses it as 'extensive systematic lying' and derives it 'from speech (11 November 1885) of Mr Gladstone's at Edinburgh'. Cf Lord Randolph Churchill's justly famous definition of a lie as a 'terminological inexactitude'.


uncle.

See: and Bob's; he has gone; I'll be a monkey's; if my aunt; keep your eye on u.; say uncle; Tommy.


Uncle Joe is much improved.

He's-hence I'm-feeling much better, business or things are going much better: since c. 1930. Prompted by the 'improved' of an invalid's health and also by the second line of a raffish, once roguish, couplet, 'Since he had his balls removed'.


Uncle Sam.

See: Kitchener.


uncomfortable.

See: any B.F. can be.


under.

See: get out and; that's a bit u.


under the bunk!

Shut up! (esp. at night): US convicts': since c. 1920. As if 'Get under your bunk and keep quiet!'


under-paid and over-laid

is a US off-shoot from the next and may, therefore, be dated as since latish 1940s. 'A strange expression', remarks A.B., 1979, when he noted it for me: 'Said by a man or a woman, petulantly, when asked “How are you doing?” casually. The implication is, “I'm not getting what I'm worth”: over-laid means too much sexual activity, not much compensation, physically or economically-maybe even emotionally or psychically'.


under-paid, under-sexed, and under Eisenhower.

See: overpaid…


undercumstumble.

See: I u.


understand.

See: my wife.


unhand me, villain (or, occ., sir)!

Current since early C20, this c.p. describes and often amiably, derides the Surreyside, or Transpontine, melodramas. Cf the quot'n at trouble at t'mill. The phrase is often followed by she cried. The sir form, comparatively rare in UK, has been fairly common in US since early C20. Moreover, unhand me, sir! has acquired a joc. sense, 'Go away! Quit bothering me!'-used, for instance, by a young woman. The plays thus characterised were popular c. 1860-1914.


universe.

See: cussedness.


unlike the home-life of our dear Queen.

See: how different…


unrelieved holocaust-an,

was a Society c.p. of 1883 and applied to even a minor accident. Ware tells us that it was occasioned by its use by a writer in The Times to describe the destruction (1882) of the Ring Theatre in Vienna and of a circus at Berditscheff in Russia, both fires being accompa¬ nied by a heavy loss of life.


unstuck.

See: glue-pot.


untidy.

See: you make the place.


up.

See: are you up?; break it up; come up; cough it up; go up; it's all up; keep your pecker; may all your ups; mine's up; never up; nothing but up; penny more; she wouldn't; sorry to keep; stir; that's up; two's up; what goes up; what's up; who's up; with the corner.


up a-'s arse, and don't be (so bloody) nosey!

'A schoolboy's answer to the question, “Where is it?”' (Granville, 1969): late C19-20. The juvenile version, which omits so bloody, derives from the male, adult, proletarian, mostly N. Country version-the longer one; the latter version is also a reply to the more specific question, 'Where did you get that thing?'; neither has been much heard since c. 1960.


up a shade, Ada!

has since c. 1950 in the RAF, esp. while it was stationed in Malta, been an appeal for more room ('Move up a bit there!'). Hence, also applied to a noisy collision between two persons.


up against you.

See: that's up….


up Alice's.

A 'teasing evasion of questions such as “where did you get to last night?”-“You going out this evening?” Orig., and still mostly, N. Country: since c. 1910,? ten or twenty years earlier. (L.A., 1974.) Not 'up at' nor 'along to', but 'up Alice's [vagina]'.


up and down like a bride's nightie;…like a whore's drawers on (a) Boat Race night.

The latter is a MN c.p., certainly of the 1950s (Peppitt); but I've heard it since the 1920s and it has been used since 1960: a humorous ref. to the traditional Oxford and Cambridge undergraduate jollification on the occasion.

The former, the more widely known, is applied to someone very restless: since the mid 1930s. Levene, 1977, describes…like a bride's nightie as 'terribly camp', but cf. off like a bride's nightie.


up and down like a fiddler's elbow

is a lower-middle-class c.p. of late (? mid) C19-20 and applied to anyone very restless. Cf. in and out like a fiddler's bitch.


up and down like a shit-house seat

was a Canadian Army c.p. of WW2 and referred to a gambler's luck. (Leechman.) Contrast the prec. and cf the next:


up and down like a yo-yo.

This has been, since c. 1960 at the latest, and certainly in the Armed Forces, the most commonly used of all the up and down similes. Applied like the bride's nightie, whore's drawers, and fiddler's elbow versions, to someone very restless, it is used perhaps more of the those servicemen who, although quite frequently promoted, are just as frequently 'busted back down' again. Also allusively, as in 'He's been up and down to corporal more times than enough. Talk about a bloody yo-yo!' (P.B.)


up and down like Tower Bridge

is a Cockney c.p. of late

-323-

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