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  1. #1
    vil is offline VIP Member
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    Default be on one’s upper

    Dear teachers,

    Would you tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expressions in bold in the following sentences?

    I say, Dad, the miners there are awfully on their uppers. (J. Galsworthy, “Exiled”)

    Four or five years ago I was on my uppers, and I had seven children, and I went to my (separated) wife and asked her to help me. (W. S. Maugham, “Of Human Bondage”)

    be on one’s upper = be poor, be hard up, be on the rocks, be out at elbows

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V

  2. #2
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: be on one’s upper

    Correct.

    Incidentally, I have not seen the expression 'be out at elbows' before. Is this a translation from another language, or did you find it in an English text? If the latter, I'd be grateful if you could post the context.

  3. #3
    vil is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: be on one’s upper

    {At the elbow}, very near; at hand

    {Out at elbow}, with coat worn through at the elbows; shabby; in needy circumstances. [1913 Webster]

    Do you remember the famous Charley Chaplin in his in the part of a miserable roamer? He wears into holes. His clothes were shabby.

    out at elbow = with coat worn through at the elbows; shabby; in needy circumstances.

    Out at elbow - definition of Out at elbow by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

    to be out at elbow s and> go in rags; be shabbily dressed;

    to be out at elbows and go in rags; be shabbily dressed; used to need to live in poverty; to crook


    V.

  4. #4
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: be on one’s upper

    'Uppers' here is about shabbiness as well. A shoe has a sole and an upper.

    b

  5. #5
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    Tullia is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: be on one’s upper

    I feel I should point out that it is always (or certainly almost always, and far more naturally) "uppers" rather than "upper".

    As your examples, vil, were both "uppers" then you probably realised this, but since you didn't use it in the plural in the thread title I thought I should make it clear for any other people reading this who don't know the phrase.

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