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Red up

Posted by Craig on October 12, 2005

I'm from Pennsylvania, and I often heard people where I grew up say "red up" (or "read up" perhaps) as in:

"Okay, kids, it's time to red up your room."

which means "to clean" or "to straighten." I'm assuming, without any real evidence, that this phrase has its origins with the Pennsylvania Dutch, but I don't really know. I learned quickly, in my Army days, however, that it does seem to be a unique phrase to this geographical area.

I've brought this phrase (and smoe others) up in my classes from time to time, but I've never been able to find a satisfactory explanation. The closest I got ws one student (his great grandmother was PA Dutch and barely spoke English) suggesting that it goes back to the color of barns and that "redding up" the barn was a way to make it look better. That makes a bit of sense, but I'd prefer to have a more academic explanation. Any information would be appreciated.