Posted by Al on January 21, 2004
In Reply to: Up stakes posted by R. Berg on January 20, 2004
: : : : : Sticks: To up sticks is to leave a place and go elsewhere. The origin is obscure. Some say that the 'sticks' are items of furniture, and others that it to do with raising a mast before a ship sails. Lawrence, on this Forum, thinks it came from the days of horse travel where the 'picket' was a rope strung from sticks/stakes where the horses were tethered. To 'up sticks' was to depart for a fresh pasture/camping ground.
: : : : : An alternative was given on a BBC TV programme about the restoration of a Scottish croft. These small houses were small and often meant only for temporary occupation during a period of work. The frame was of rough cut, unseasoned timber, often straight from the forest. Some of the timber pieces (sticks) had to be of a special shape, such as those needed for the roof structure. Such pieces were of great practical value and were taken from the croft and reused when the family moved on - thus the expression. You may take your pick, although the saying is said to be no older then the 19thC.
: : : : This reference goes with the nautical origin and drops the "s":
: : : : UP-STICK - U.S. equivalent - pack up and go. "Inf. This can describe moving one's entire ménage or simply clearing up after a picnic. From nautical slang (now obsolescent) meaning 'set a mast.' Cf. 'pull up sticks.'" From "British English from A to Zed" by Norman Schur (FirstHarperPerennial edition, 1991).
: : : : I haven't heard that expression in the U.S. I have heard "up stakes."
: : : I'm with ESC on this one. In Aus I've only heard 'up stakes'. Seeing there appears to be so many potential and plausible definitions of up sticks, maybe up stakes is just an aberration?
: : Perhaps it's 'Up Steaks' a command commonly given to army cooks to allow the underside of the meat to be inspected to ensure thorough cooking on both sides.
: Pull up the tent stakes, break camp?
In the mountain west and high deserts of the US we always just assumed 'pull up tent stakes, break camp'.