Q From Dr John Thomas, UK: I could not find the word upsadesi on your list. Does it really have a meaning? Or is it just an expression?
A There are lots of forms of this expression: upsidaisy, upsa-daisy, upsy-daisy, and oops-a-daisy, variously hyphenated on the rare occasions they turn up in print. These days, it’s just a nonsense word. It’s said to a child as encouragement to get up again after falling over, or when somebody is picking it up. Though the one thing most versions have in common is a reference to a daisy, a flower is not involved.
The common origin of all of these is up-a-daisy, dating from the early eighteenth-century. An even earlier version is the English dialect up-a-day. This is just as nonsensical a phrase, but it does show that the final part of the modern expression is actually a corruption of day.
Its history is closely bound up with lackadaisical, which started out as the cry alack-a-day!, “shame or reproach to the day!” (that it should have brought this upon me), but which by the eighteenth century had turned into lackadaisy.
Alack-a-day! was once a passionate and heartfelt cry, but it degenerated over time into a flabby exclamation of unease over some minor upset. It seems to have provided the model for up-a-day, originally a dialect term that eventually made it back into mainstream English, albeit in modulated and variable form.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
Adimpleate; Deodand; Ilk; Fowler’s Modern English Usage; Skint; Vellichor; Galoot; Crizzling; Caparisoned; Volleyballene; Trove; Smithereens; Worry wart; Punch list; Verbigeration; Heliotrope; Ditty bag; E30; Old fogey; Ampersand; Phizzog; Horse creature; Get one’s goat; Mammock; Mx;
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!