Here’s something interesting:
- To turn up is to arrive.
- To turn down is to reject.
That is, if you take “turn” and add either “up” or “down” to it, you get a new, idiomatic phrase. The great part is that the two phrases you get this way aren’t opposites. Here’s another example:
- To dress up is to put on fancy clothes.
- To dress down is to berate.
What other verbs can you think of that have this property? Fine print:
- Both “— up” and “— down” must exist, and must have some idiomatic meaning, even if not much (“Think” doesn’t work, because while you can think up an idea, you can’t think down anything.)
- It’s okay if one or both of the forms is a compound word. (“Lay” works, because a layup is a basketball shot and you lay down a funky bass line.)
- There must be at least one meaning with “up” that is not the opposite of any meaning with “down,” or vice versa. (“Dress” illustrates this rule. To “dress down” is also to put on casual clothes, but there’s no up opposite to the “berate” meaning.)
My list is after the jump:
- We started with lie, sit, and stand.
- Get (à la George Clinton): both forms have the same meaning!
- Same goes for lock and tie.
- Pin, on the other hand, escapes from this pattern through the magic of metonymy.
- Shoot and cut have fairly violent down-forms but unexpected up-forms.
- Those who work with texts will enjoy the subtly different flavors of write, mark, and draw.
- Turn and show converge upwards but not downwards.
- Underworld alert: beat, crack and shake.
- Perhaps my personal favorite: double.
- Most entertaining combination: throw.
- Typically, the up-form is more pleasant than the down-form (e.g., let, take, and put), but that’s not the case with break.
- I can’t seem to face down to the facts.
- It was a lot of fun trying to run some of these up.
- I’ll shut up—or is that down?—now.
(“Look,” “talk,” and “step” almost made it onto the list, but I couldn’t convince myself that their down-forms were legit. I was also rooting for “move,” but I think that’s best described as a case of simple opposites.)