"Up tight"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Aug 1 21:46:13 UTC 2005

I found that J. M. Cain ex. independently about 35 years ago and it's been bothering me ever since. So much so that I've just about persuaded myself that it really means "up close (to my imminent execution)."

Or something.


Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: "Up tight"

On Aug 1, 2005, at 4:01 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
> Subject: Re: "Up tight"
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Nothing to add to Wilson's colorful derivation, though it's a bit
> reminiscent of W.R. Higginbotham's hidden history of "nitty-gritty"
> recently mentioned here.

Is that hidden history available somewhere and is it something that can
be observed simply looking at one's own body?

> On Mon, 1 Aug 2005 13:10:28 -0400, Wilson Gray
> wrote:
>> I'm sure that the more mature of us remember the positive use in the
>> line from "Fingertips part deux," by Little Stevie Wonder: "Everything
>> is all right! Up tight and out of sight!"
> That line is the chorus from "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", which
> charted in early 1966. "Fingertips, Pt. 2", Little Stevie's first hit,
> was
> released in 1963 and doesn't have "uptight" in the lyrics, AFAIK.

It matters not, as long as an instance of the once-primary positive use
of "up tight" is demonstrated.

Oddly enough, this phrase - it matters not - was standard, so to
speak, hip street talk in St. Louis back in the day. One would think
that such phraseology would be much too siditty for the boyz in the
'hood. But, there it is.

> http://www.song-text.com/11202/
>> The oldest searchable example
>> of the purely negative use that I can recall is from the movie, "The
>> Pawnbroker."
>> IIRC, the pawnbroker is closing shop for the day, when a black robber
>> with a pistol comes in. Needless to say, the pawnbroker tenses. When
>> the robber sees/intuits this response, he attempts to reassure the
>> pawnbroker with the words, "Cool it, baby. Don't get up tight."
> OED has a cite from thirty years earlier in _The Postman Always Rings
> Twice_, though it notes that it's "an isolated early example."
> -----
> 1934 J. M. CAIN Postman always rings Twice xvi. 190 I'm getting up
> tight
> now, and I've been thinking about Cora. Do you think she knows I
> didn't do it?
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

More information about the Ads-l mailing list