Phrase of the day: Onwards and upwards

The publication of this post marks the end of our first full week of WORD OF THE DAY over here on the Lexical Lab site and I’ve spent much of the last few days tying up loose endssorting out all the little bits and pieces that needed to be done as we move our focus from a full-time school to a short summer school instead. There have been lots of meetings, and to say I’m not a fan of meetings would be an understatement (I really hate them!); we’ve had to deal with lots of red tape – boring official rules and paperwork that cause delays; there have been lots of phone calls to accountants, banks and various other companies; and to top it all off, I’ve been trying to get through my email backlogover recent weeks I’ve got really behind with things and am still trying to get on top of everything!

Given all of this, it’s been a real pleasure to receive so many emails, messages and comments on social media from people wishing us well. We’re really grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to get in touch. It means a lot. One interesting thing I noticed was how many of the messages used one particular phrase: near the end, many simply said Onwards and upwards! In this context, the phrase means something like I hope you go on to achieve greater things and be more successful. It’s a lovely thing to say and offers real encouragement. Thank you!

Onwards and upwards is also often used as an adjective, so for instance, a football may have had a bad run of form and been losing lots of games, but then they win a big important match and start to feel like they’ve turned a corner. In the post-match interview, the manager might say how proud he is of his players, what a big result it is for the team and how it’s upwards and upwards from now on! Notice that onwards and upwards is again connected to the success that people hope will continue in the future.

Finally, the phrase is often used in a more jokey kind of way among friends – as a way of suggesting that it’s time to stop your pleasurable break and get on with some real work. For example, on one of the days when we’re supposed to be writing one of our books, Andrew and I might spent a couple of hours sitting around, chatting, making jokes, surfing the web, drinking tea . . . in short, doing anything except the work we should be doing! Eventually, one of us will leap up and announce Right! Onwards and upwards! Come on. This book isn’t going to write itself, is it!

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  • Do you know anybody – or any team / organization – that you think is moving onwards and upwards at the moment?
  • What are you not a big fan of? Why?
  • What kinds of things do you usually do before forcing yourself to get on with some real work?
  • Is there much red tape in your country? When might you need to deal with it?
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3 Responses

  1. Ameenah Hajeej says:

    There is one friend I know who I think she is really going onward and upward. She has started her own business in clothes design, and she has quickly gained popularity in Algeria. Now she’s going to start her own TV show. As to our football team, it has been disqualified from the Africa Cup after losing an important match, so I guess it’s going backward and downward :D.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Don’t think Algeria were disqualified, were they? That usually only happens when players fail drugs tests, etc. Instead, they were KNOCKED OUT at the group stages. Pretty dreadful showing from such a talented team. Have never heard the phrase BACWKARDS AND DOWNWARDS before, but it makes perfect sense and made me laugh. No reason not to create new phrases like this!

      Your friend sounds like she’s doing really well. I actually have a friend in Indonesia, where I used to live, who does Islamic fashion stuff and that’s also taking off, which is great.

      • Ameenah Hajeej says:

        That’s what I meant “knocked out”, thank you for correcting me. Could you suggest an alternative expression for the one I created?

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