Why is "Up" Bad?
If someone does something very poorly, they might say any of the following:
- I messed up
- I screwed up
- I f_cked up
Why is UP the negative direction? In many religions and mythologies, paradise, heaven and bliss are considered to be above us, and some form of hell is considered to be below us. When you get a promotion, you "move up" in the world. When a commodity becomes more valuable, its price goes "up", and when it loses value or becomes less desirable the price "drops", “falls” or goes “down". When a person gains rank in the military, they move “up” through the ranks and are “over” those they command. In general, when power and value increase they are described in terms relating to “up” or “ascension”. Based on these trends, one would think that the word “down” would be appended to phrases to indicate failure, such as “messed down” or “screwed down”.
I did quite a bit of research on the internet, and can find no logical reason why "up" is appended to various other words to indicate failure and ruin. Quite commonly a version of the F word or "screw" is put before “up” to indicate a negative state. The F word and “screw” are slang references to the act of sexual intercourse, which is an activity most people probably enjoy. Depending on how people are positioned, it is quite possible to have intercourse with an upwards motion for at least one of the partners and have the experience remain pleasant. Thus, it does not logically follow that the "up" would make the experience negative and lead to a slang equation where: sex + up = bad
Does anyone out there know where the concept of "up" being bad in these phrases came from? The internet is filled with explanations of the etymology of the F word, definitions of the slang term "screw" and definitions for the word "messed", but none of these sites explain why people came to append the word "up" to create a specific negative meaning.