Up and at ‘em vs up and Adam or atom

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Up and at ‘em and up and Adam or atom are expressions that are often used, and often confused. We will examine the meaning of the terms up and at ‘em, and up and Adam or atom, where the phrases came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Up and at ‘em is a phrase that is an exhortation to get out of bed and get going, to get busy, to quit wasting time and accomplish something. The ‘em in up and at ‘em is an abbreviation of the word them. Most believe that the expression up and at ‘em was popularized during World War I, the earliest known citation of the phrase occurred in 1909. When used as an adjective before a noun the phrase is hyphenated, as in up-and-at-‘em.

Up and Adam and up and atom are two phrases that are the result of mishearing or misinterpreting the phrase up and at ‘em. Up and Adam and up and atom are eggcorns, which are misheard words or phrases that retain their original meaning.


If you’re up and at’ em and you haven’t scheduled anything past your morning cup of coffee on Veterans Day, come participate in the San Vicente Catholic School annual family run/walk Friday, Nov. 10, in Barrigada. (The Guam Daily Post)

The next morning it’s up and at ’em at 4am, to leave at 5am for Xobega Island Camp, an almost eight-hour drive, to the deep of the Okavango Delta. (Marie Claire Magazine)

Michael Slater: After a confidence sapping 1980s he was a poster boy for Australia’s up-and-at-‘em 1990s with a rousing 152 at Lord’s in 1993 in his first series, famously cutting the first ball of the next Ashes series for four a year later on the way to 176. (The Courier Mail)