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Old 03-02-2001, 02:45 PM
D18 D18 is offline
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My grandmother (b. around 1900) and other people about her age used to use the term "red up" for "tidy up" - i.e., if a room were untidy, she'd say "we need to red up this room". This was in a rural area of Southern Ontario - just south of Owen Sound for those who know the region. As far as I could ever tell, this usage was fairly confined.

But then, I later had a friend from Pittsburgh who one day used the term "red up" in this context - which was the first time I had ever a) heard someone my age use it and b) heard someone from somewhere else use it. He said the term was fairly common - but probably more so among older people.

Two questions:

a) is/was this used in other regions of North America?
b) does anyone know how "red up" came to mean "tidy up"?

Old 03-02-2001, 03:03 PM
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a). I laugh at my fiancee every time she says it's time to "red up". She's from rural Ohio.

b). I'm guessing it's short for ready up, as in readying a room for company. Maybe then it should be spelled "read up" but pronounced in passive form "red"?

c). Hi Opal!

I always thought, the way she pronounced it, it was "ret" up...I could have been hallucinating, though...
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Old 03-02-2001, 03:52 PM
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From The Word Detective:

While you don't mention exactly where you grew up, if your grandmother routinely told you to "redd up" your room, there's a statistical probability that either you were living in, or your grandmother was from, Pennsylvania. "Redd up," meaning "to clear or clean up," arrived in America with immigrants from Scotland and northern England, and while Scots settled all over the eastern US, the phrase seems to be most commonly heard today, for some reason, in Pennsylvania.

The root of "redd" (which by itself means "to clear or clean") seems to be a combination of the Middle English and Scots dialectical word "redden" (meaning "to free or clear an area") with another Middle English word, "reden," meaning "to rescue or free from." The same tangle of roots gave us the word "rid," and is closely related to the word "ready." And none of this, by the way, has anything to do with the color "red."
The expression is related to ready but doesn't come directly from the word, as I used to think as well.

Whenever I see or hear this, I always think of the In Living Color character who would say, "I'm redd to go."
Old 03-02-2001, 04:02 PM
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And from
Regional Note: The terms redd and redd up came to the American Midlands from the many Scottish immigrants who settled there. Meaning to clear an area or to make it tidy, redd is still used in Scotland and Northern Ireland; in the United States it is especially common in Pennsylvania as the phrasal verb redd up. The term, which goes back to Old Norse rydhja, can be traced from the 15th century to the present, particularly in dialects of Scotland and the North of England.
Old 03-02-2001, 09:41 PM
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I grew up in rural northwest Ohio. I never heard the term used in my family, but in high school once in a class someone mentioned the word. It appeared that most of the people in the class used or had at least heard the term used at home. The way they pronounced it sounded more like "rid up" (although given how long ago this was, I might be misremembering).
Old 03-02-2001, 09:56 PM
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The term must be older than we think, and not confined to North America. I was reading Jane Eyre in high school, and towards the end, after Jane has been reunited with Edward Rochester(he's been blinded), she helps to trim and comb his hair. "There, sir, you are all redd up and made decent" she tells him.
Old 03-03-2001, 04:00 PM
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The first chapter of Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson, speaks of "the gear redd up and the house disposed of". The person is speaking of cleaning up everything after David Balfour, the protagonist of the novel, has had his father die and leave him a small inheritance.

So it must have been Scottish to begin with.
Old 06-20-2012, 01:35 PM
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I'm from central Ohio and heard the term many times. I believe it really comes from Gaelic; for example reidh in Irish has a similar meaning. Scott and Irish Gaelic are similar.
Old 06-20-2012, 03:36 PM
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Western Pennsylvanian.

This term is often touted as an example of Pittsburghese. Though I, a native Pittsburgher, never heard the term until I moved east of the city into a more rural area. People use it a lot here.
Old 06-20-2012, 04:03 PM
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My in-laws, both native Pittsburghers who have lived there all their lives, use "redd up" frequently.

My wife, who basically left Pittsburgh during her college years, does not use it at all.

And to answer your next question - yes, even though my wife has been gone from Pittsburgh for many years, she's still a member of the Steeler Nation.
Old 06-20-2012, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by idiotboy View Post
a). I laugh at my fiancee every time she says it's time to "red up". She's from rural Ohio.

b). I'm guessing it's short for ready up, as in readying a room for company. Maybe then it should be spelled "read up" but pronounced in passive form "red"?

c). Hi Opal!

I always thought, the way she pronounced it, it was "ret" up...I could have been hallucinating, though...
Why laugh at your fiancee when she uses a word you are not familiar with? Sounds rather disrespectful to me.
Old 06-20-2012, 06:33 PM
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I'm from Northern Ireland and that word is still used frequently here and in that context.

"Come on, it's time to redd the place up"

Though I never thought of how it was spelled before, its just one of quite a few (a brave wheen of) words and phrases that are still in common usage here and in my opinion are a loss to the language if they aren't used elsewhere.
Old 06-20-2012, 09:28 PM
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I've noticed the author Beverly Lewis use the term "redd up" in her Amish romances. Several of them are set in the present-day or nearly so. I can't remember the geographical area they're set in, however. Sorry.
Old 06-20-2012, 10:28 PM
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"redd-up" only appears from the 19th century, but the verb "redd" as well as the noun, both referreing to cleaning up or clearing out, go back in Scots/Northern English/Irish to the 1400s.
Old 06-20-2012, 11:02 PM
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Amish romances? Good Christ, I hope the Mayans were right.
Old 06-21-2012, 12:00 AM
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I grew up in an Anabaptist community (not Amish/Mennonite, but coming from the same traditions), and heard about redding enough to find it completely unremarkable, though my parents never used the phrase.

I remember reading a short story in an American literature class in college that used redd up, and had a footnote with the definition. I couldn't imagine who didn't know what that meant, and was very surprised in class when it came up and the answer was "nearly everyone."
Old 03-29-2013, 11:19 PM
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Reading "That Hideous Strength" by C.S. Lewis (noted Philologist) one finds in Chapter 9 The Saracen's Head, Section 3:

And what's happening now, if the Director's views are correct, is that their own respectable kith and kin are visiting this planet to red the place up.
This quote is attributed to the character MacPhee, an Ulsterman (mistaken by many to be Scotch). The book was published in 1943 and one may safely assume that Lewis made a deliberate decision to include this speech to give the image he desired.

More support for the references posted earlier.
Old 03-31-2013, 03:30 PM
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I'm originally from southeastern Pennsylvania (Lancaster County) and heard and used "redd up" frequently while I was growing up.

It seems to have come into English from Scottish, and before that from Old Norse - Norwegian, for example, still has the verb "rydde" which means exactly the same as "redd up".
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Old 03-31-2013, 11:41 PM
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Never heard it. Grew up in Texas and lived in the Southwest and Hawaii.
Old 04-01-2013, 09:12 AM
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My dad uses it occasionally - he's 59 and Scottish. And I'm pretty sure I've heard other Scottish people use it.
Old 04-01-2013, 10:05 AM
D18 D18 is offline
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Do zombies say "redd up"? (It seems very meta to call "zombie" on your own thread!)
Old 04-01-2013, 03:23 PM
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The one-act play "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell uses the phrase at one point. The setting is never explicitly mentioned, but it is rural, and one character mentions homesteading "in the Dakotas." And it's cold and snowy.

In Texas, I've never heard it.
Old 04-01-2013, 04:16 PM
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In her autobiography We Shook the Family Tree, Hildegarde Dolson discusses this expression. She grew up in Pennsylvania, and considers it a useful phrase: "To tidy a room sounds too prissy, and to clean a room implies more than I am prepared to give." She spells it redd.

It's a very funny book, by the way. It covers the period from approximately 1909-1929.
Old 04-01-2013, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by D18 View Post
Do zombies say "redd up"? (It seems very meta to call "zombie" on your own thread!)
A-ha! I know what you were doing 12 years ago on March the second, at 2:45 PM.

Good alibi. Unless you had someone else sign in and post while you murdered that old lady.
Old 04-01-2013, 07:22 PM
D18 D18 is offline
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Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
A-ha! I know what you were doing 12 years ago on March the second, at 2:45 PM.

Good alibi. Unless you had someone else sign in and post while you murdered that old lady.
Heh, heh, heh. Let's just say I may have had a few things to redd up. Yeah. Redd up. That's what I was doin', see?
Old 04-01-2013, 09:35 PM
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My grandmother, from Center County, Pennsylvania used the expression.
Old 04-02-2013, 10:36 AM
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I'm from north central Ohio and grew up hearing this term -- and yes, full on Scottish/Irish extraction. Once we went to Kentucky to visit my stepmom's extended relatives. One of the nice ladies there had put together a really nice spread (considering it didn't appear she had much in the way of assets, she sure managed to put out a lot of really great food). My stepmom and I asked what we could do to help her, and I could swear she used the term "red up" to refer to the process of taking everything out of pots and pans and putting them in serving bowls on the table. Is my memory fuzzy and there was another "hills of Kentucky" term for that or could there be another usage for "red up"?

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