Up (for) and down (with)

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From Peter Weinberger:

My group at work was discussing a proposed outing:
I said “I’m up for that”.
Our intern said “I’m down with that”.

Do you know if this is purely generational, or is there some sort of geographic component?

There’s some evidence that Peter’s intuition about generational changes is right:

As for the geographical and other dimensions of the question, the comments are open.



40 Comments

  1. Chinook Man said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 10:00 pm

    I grew up hearing “up for” from the 1970s on. “Down with” was a discovery via hiphop, 1980s on. In 2000, I was momentarily stunned by a young woman’s acceptance of an invitation to a bar with “I’m down for that.”

  2. Tim Martin said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 10:15 pm

    I’ve no idea about geographical distribution, but as for generational: my intuition before even looking at the graph was that “I’m down with X,” or simply “I’m down,” is newer slang than “I’m up for X.”

    My feeling as a teenager (in the late 90’s – early 00’s) was that saying “I’m down” would make my speech contrast somewhat sharply with older generations, who didn’t really speak that way.

    For geographic reference, I grew up in Jersey. Mid-Atlantic dialect.

  3. Jeremiah Megel said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

    I’m a 20-year-old male college student in Iowa. I interchangeably use the following:

    – “I’m up for that.”

    – “I’m down for that.”

    – “I’m down with that.”

    Though I would note that my use of “down with” is slightly broader. While all three can generally refer to agreement to future/planned events, “down with” can also describe general agreement with/support of an action/property/occurrence. For example:

    – “Our professor gave us an extra day for the assignment.”

    – “I’m down with that.”

  4. Pigeon Hello said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

    This is very confusing, partially because I think the phrases “down for” and “down with” are different.

    My gut wants to translate “down for” as “prepared for”, ” excited for”, where as “down for” I would map to “find agreeable”, ” cool with”. If high on coke you’re down for anything’ if you’re high on weed you’re down with anything.

    I also think they function differently grammatically in a way that using “that” disguises. E.g

    I’m down with Obama (you think Obama is cool)
    *I’m down for Obama (you want eat Obama?)

    Also down can take an infinitive directly as in the infamous “down to clown”.

    Curious.

    I’m down to dance (right now)
    I’m down

  5. Pigeon Hello said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 10:59 pm

    Compare the above if I substitute “down” with “ready” or “afraid”

  6. tangent said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 11:45 pm

    May have been popularized by “down with O.P.P.”, lyrics from a hit song, 1991. The web says that was from an earlier “down with O.P.M.”, “other people’s money”.

  7. cM said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 11:53 pm

    Obligatory Corner Gas clip:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmELuBu1-yA

  8. Kiwanda said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 12:10 am

    I think “DTF” is pretty recent, and “UTF” is something else entirely.

  9. Carl said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 12:11 am

    Obligatory Onion link:

    http://www.theonion.com/article/national-funk-congress-deadlocked-on-get-upget-dow-625

  10. maidhc said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 12:17 am

    In the 1970s it was “get down and get funky”.
    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doing_It_to_Death)
    (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/billwithers/shewantstogetondown.html)
    In the 1980s it became with “Are you down with …” (singers, bands, etc.)
    In the 1990s it began to take on a more generic meaning.

  11. marc e said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 2:22 am

    I can’t help but be reminded of the complex syntax and semantics for phrasal verbs and verb particles. For example, juxtapose:
    screw up & #screw down
    take on, take up, take over & take down
    etc.
    This strikes me as sharing some of the same constructional properties even though the syntax is quite different.

    I wonder if there’s a connection.

  12. Dick Margulis said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 5:15 am

    I’m picturing, a generation back, “Sure, put me down for two tickets” or “I have you down for the cleanup committee,” with the strong connection with writing something down on a list. I just wonder (no data or evidence, pure speculation) whether that’s ultimately where the “down for” expression traces to.

  13. Sandy Nicholson said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 6:51 am

    On a geographical note, here in Scotland (at least in my experience), ‘down for’ still only has the adding-to-the-list meaning that Dick Margulis mentions. And ‘down with’, for me, can, I think, only be used exclamatively, as in ‘Down with that sort of thing!’ On the other hand, I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t say I was ‘up for’ something (in the sense of being in favour of doing something).

  14. January First-of-May said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 7:11 am

    @Dick Margulis – definitely makes sense to me!

    I wonder, though, whether anyone seeing (or hearing) the “down with” form thinks of the older sense of “down with” (as in the Iranian slogan “Down with USA”).

  15. January First-of-May said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 7:14 am

    …and Sandy Nicholson just posted about the exact same thing. Sorry.

  16. michael farris said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 8:46 am

    Thinking with my typing fingers and thinking about my usage…. I can’t think of them as all that close.

    I’m up for that. = I can summon the resources to do that, or it’s my turn (as in I’m up for jury duty.) Doesn’t necessarily imply much enthusiasm.

    I’m down with that. = I empathize, or I think it’s a good idea. Not so much enthusiasm as lack of opposition (very close to “I’m cool with that.”)

    I realize my usage probably doesn’t match younger (or some other older) speakers….

  17. Theophylact said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 9:14 am

    Put me down for that.

  18. SamC said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 9:22 am

    I agree with Pigeon Hello – “down for” means put me down for that; I want that, like:
    “Do you want to order some Chinese food?” “I’m totally down for Chinese food and a movie tonight.”

    Which for mean matches more closely with “up for,” meaning something you’re ready to do or would agree to do.
    “Are you up for Chinese food tonight?” “Totally; I just have to hit the gym hard tomorrow” “What about going out dancing after?” “Nah, I’m really tired; I don’t think I’m up for that.”

    “Down with” means I’m cool with something, or OK with it in a chill kind of way, like “”That old white lady is surprisingly down with legalizing pot,” or:
    “I think they should serve Chinese food in movie theaters” “I’d be down with that.”

    (I’m late 20s, AmE MidAtlantic if that’s helpful)

  19. Robert Coren said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 9:32 am

    @SamC: Well, I’m AmE Northeast, late 60s, and my perception of those phrases matches yours exactly.

  20. Terry Hunt said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 10:21 am

    Being less overtly enthusiastic, my normal expression in these circumstances would be “I’ll go along with that.”

    Up, down, along . . . where will this all end?

  21. J. W. Brewer said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 10:29 am

    Note the parallelism in these lyrics from a song popular with many of my sixth-grade classmates four decades ago:

    “Get up
    Everybody’s gonna move their feet
    Get down
    Everybody’s gonna leave their seat
    You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City”

    “Get down” had a definite sexual sense within its range of meanings (not necessarily in that particular song, although not necessarily not) that as best as I can recall “get up” did not, although I don’t know if any trace of that distinction tracks through to “up for” vs. “down for/with.”

  22. Scott said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 10:32 am

    This claim about the recency of “I’m down with that” is made fairly explicitly in the Tim McGraw song “Back When”:

    “Back when a hoe was a hoe
    Coke was a coke

    And when you said I’m down with that
    Well it meant you had the flu
    I miss back when
    …”
    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/timmcgraw/backwhen.html

  23. cameron said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 11:55 am

    @January First-of-May:

    The political slogan in the Islamic Republic of Iran is not “Down With the USA” – the ritualistic chant is “marg bar Āmricā“, literally “death to America”.

  24. Bean said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 11:57 am

    And if you read 22 comments in a row it all starts to look like a foreign language and you start forgetting how you actually use those phrases yourself…anything starts to sound plausible… and lyrics from Great Big Sea start to take over (“When I’m up I can’t get down…”) so I have no further comments.

  25. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

    Do I just have a dirty mind, or does “I’m up for that” also have a sexual reference?

    There’s also “down as fuck”, meaning excellent. A student once said that about me—an unexpected reminder of “The Prooshian Bates is a downy bird.”

    (The student said it loudly and had good reason to think I could “overhear” him. Gratuitous dialect note: He was being a lambe, New Mexican Spanish for a flatterer, from the more widespread but nonstandard lamber ‘to lick’, with the “b” surviving from Latin but lost in standard Spanish lamer.)

  26. J. W. Brewer said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 3:59 pm

    The sense of “down” in the old graffiti-ism DTK (for “down to kill”), as e.g. described in fuller context here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.A.M.F., seems similar to the “down for X” usage even though using a different preposition. “Snippet view” in google books is often frustratingly limited, but there are suggestions that the DTK usage was described in texts about NYC graffiti as early as 1969ish, and description in the sort of texts that subsequently made it into the google books corpus likely lagged actual spray-paint-on-walls usage by several years at least. But of course people’s vague sense that the “down for” construction emerged in the 1980’s is not inconsistent with it having arisen in some specific subculture a decade or two before that. There is also apparently (I had a very vague sense of maybe having seen it before, but just confirmed via some googling) a current-in-some-quarters usage DTF, which = “down to fuck,” which in turn seems approximately synonymous with “down for fucking,” although I will confess I don’t know how idiomatic the latter would sound to The Young People Today. I also don’t know whether “down to VERB” is a generally productive construction or not.

  27. lynneguist said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

    Not quite the same, but I made some observations about ‘it’s up to you’ and ‘it’s down to you’ (then commenters made more observations) here:
    http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/its-downup-to-you.html

  28. January First-of-May said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 6:25 pm

    @cameron – Anton Krotov reports it as “Down with USA” from his voyage to Iran, but it was probably just the English version, and it could easily have changed after he was there (which was an awful long time ago, as in “they recently chose a new president, a Mr. Khatami”).

  29. Robert Coren said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 9:53 am

    Surely “down with” as a rallying cry (with the meaning “death to”, more or less) has been around for a very long time? I remember it from my childhood as showing up in the translation of Dumas’ Twenty Years After, where the French “à bas Mazarin!” showed up as “down with Mazarin!”, and as I recall I knew what it meant without thinking about it. (The literal meaning of the French phrase is pretty much the same.)

  30. Jared said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 10:03 am

    This is probably an overly simplistic explanation, but I noticed the rise of “down with” at about the same time “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature came out, repeating over and over, “You down with OPP?”

  31. Nikki said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 4:32 pm

    For me (I’m 24, AmE), “up for” means “willing to do” –
    “I’m up for [getting] pizza”

    “down for” means “willing to do”
    “I’m down for [getting] pizza”
    and is probably something I’d be more likely to say,

    and “down with” means “familiar with” or “aware of” or “okay with” –
    ???”I’m down with [getting] pizza” – what would that mean, I think (getting) pizza’s okay and cool?

    So basically I agree with Pigeon Hello

  32. /ni:v/ said,

    March 20, 2016 @ 7:31 am

    My intuition is that “down” is more American. Being from Ireland, I always used “up for” until I lived in the US for a few years; now I find myself using both. This might be changing now due to general dialect levelling due to media influences, but “down” still has a distinct American ring to me.

  33. Sandy Nicholson said,

    March 20, 2016 @ 9:53 am

    Apart from @lynneguist and @/ni:v/’s comments, no one seems to have said much about the geographical spread of ‘down for/with’ as an alternative to ‘up for’ (which Peter asked about, although maybe he was thinking of within-US variation). In my case, it could be a generational thing (I’m in my late 40s), but I can honestly say that I can’t recall having heard ‘down for/with’ being used in this sense (not even in films or TV programmes emanating from the other side of the Pond).

    If I heard @Nikki saying ‘I’m up for pizza’, I think we’d be on the same wavelength. But if she said ‘I’m down for pizza’, I might well suppose that it was her turn to collect the pizza this week (there being a rota) or that she was meant to make pizza for the party (there being an allocation of party-related tasks). If I heard her say ‘I’m down with pizza’, I’d be completely stumped; in fact, I might assume I’d misheard and that she’d actually said ‘I’m done with pizza’, meaning her pizza-eating days were over! (Well, I might not be completely stumped any more, having read this blog post.)

    One thing that particularly surprises me about other comments is the assumption that the exclamative/sloganeering form ‘Down with X!’ is an Iranianism (@January First-of-May) or perhaps old-fashioned French-in-translation (@Robert Coren). If it hadn’t been reasonably current and widespread (though I concur it may be a little dated, protesting having become rather slicker in recent years), the Father Ted joke I alluded to earlier (‘Down with this sort of thing!’) wouldn’t have worked – but maybe that’s not something American readers of LL will be familiar with.

  34. Sandy Nicholson said,

    March 20, 2016 @ 9:54 am

    Apart from @lynneguist and @/ni:v/’s comments, no one seems to have said much about the geographical spread of ‘down for/with’ as an alternative to ‘up for’ (which Peter asked about, although maybe he was thinking of within-US variation). In my case, it could be a generational thing (I’m in my late 40s), but I can honestly say that I can’t recall having heard ‘down for/with’ being used in this sense (not even in films or TV programmes emanating from the other side of the Pond).

    If I heard @Nikki saying ‘I’m up for pizza’, I think we’d be on the same wavelength. But if she said ‘I’m down for pizza’, I might well suppose that it was her turn to collect the pizza this week (there being a rota) or that she was meant to make pizza for the party (there being an allocation of party-related tasks). If I heard her say ‘I’m down with pizza’, I’d be completely stumped; in fact, I might assume I’d misheard and that she’d actually said ‘I’m done with pizza’, meaning her pizza-eating days were over! (Well, I might not be completely stumped any more, having read this blog post.)

    One thing that particularly surprises me about other comments is the assumption that the exclamative/sloganeering form ‘Down with X!’ is an Iranianism (@January First-of-May) or perhaps old-fashioned French-in-translation (@Robert Coren). If it hadn’t been reasonably current and widespread (though I concur it may be a little dated, protesting having become rather slicker in recent years), the Father Ted joke I alluded to earlier (‘Down with this sort of thing!’) wouldn’t have worked – but maybe that’s not something American readers of LL will be familiar with.

  35. Sandy Nicholson said,

    March 20, 2016 @ 9:55 am

    (Oops. Apologies for the double post.)

  36. Bmblbzzz said,

    March 21, 2016 @ 5:38 am

    “Down with the kids”?

  37. Robert Coren said,

    March 21, 2016 @ 9:57 am

    @Sandy Nicholson: I didn’t intend to imply that I thought that “down with” had its origin in the French phrase; I was only citing my earliest memory of the phrase (in English) as evidence that it had been around a long time (I’m assuming that the translation of the Dumas predated my reading of it [sometime around 1960] by multiple decades, an assumption I can’t confirm as I no longer have the book).

  38. Tom E Gunn said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 7:52 am

    Krs one and Boogie Down Productions spent most of the 1988 song ‘I’m still #1’ stating who was ‘down wit us’ as in cool with us or friends/associates of ours.

  39. Xtifr said,

    March 22, 2016 @ 10:05 pm

    West Coast US here, and my feeling pretty much matches that reported for the East, so if it was regional, it has at least spread to both coasts. I’m in my mid-fifties, and when I was younger, I think I had the feeling that the “down for” and “down with” versions were perceived as somewhat lower class/street. (Which was not necessarily perceived as a bad thing.) I’m not sure that association still holds, though.

  40. Bathrobe said,

    March 29, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

    I think ‘Down with (…the USA)’ is VERY old. Compare French à bas.

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