Put up or shut up

Put up or shut up is an idiom; controversy rages concerning its origin. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom put up or shut up, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Put up or shut up is a challenge to stop simply talking or complaining about a problem and take action. Put up or shut up commands that one either do something or stop talking about doing something. For instance, someone who complains about his local school system may be told to stop complaining and volunteer to make the schools better—to put up or shut up. The expression put up or shut up seems to have originated in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. However, its origin is unclear. The idiom put or shut up may be a reference to putting one’s fists up in front of him when preparing to fight; or it may be a reference to poker, in which a play must either ante up or fold.


IN Championship terms, it is time for Armagh to put up or shut up. (Irish News)

No one has out-recruited Scott Frost in the last two or three seasons in the West, so for me, it’s time to put up or shut up. (Aurora News-Register)

They also have a message for Cyber Ninjas, the company running the Arizona recount effort: “Put up or shut up.” (Arizona Republic)

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