Posted by Smokey Stover on December 15, 2004
In Reply to: Hung up posted by ESC on December 14, 2004
: : : : What is to be hung up on something? Obsessed with? Worried about? Does it have the additional meaning of feeling guilty of?
: : : : Thanks
: : : : JC
: : : : PS. English is not my first language, but I am not learning it either. This forum is primarily intended for those who speak E. as first language. Does it mean that people like me are about to become personae non gratae here?
: : : No, I would hope not. The occasional query about phrases that many native English speakers would already know is fine.
: : : We were recently in danger of becoming seen by people who knew very little English as a means of teaching themselves the language or of translating whatever book they were reading virtually line bt line. That, and other postings that were off-topic were spoiling the fun so I made the rules of engagement, which had previously been implicit, explicit.
: : The problem with the phrase "hung up on" is that, as you have observed, it can mean all three. Obsessed, or mildly obsessed, or preoccupied. Worried about. And feeling guilty in a way that inhibits action.
: : It's a vague term, meant to be heard in context to make sense of it. Careful writers should avoid it, using more precise language.
: Hang up! - Stop. 1900. From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).
: Hung up - bewildered. The Jive Generation - 1940s
: Hang - relax. Mainstream 1950s.
: Hang up -- fixed pattern of behavior. The Beat Culture 1950s.
: Hang up -- inhibition. Hippie Counterculture. or from "hang" (1950s: to relax).
: From "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996).
: Also, the romantic sense: "I'm hung up over you." Meaning he or she can't get over an infatuation.
José Carlos, you asked about hung up or hung up on, commonly used, as ESC has pointed out, to mean obsessed with, or a bit obsessed with, or preoccupied with. The figurative use is close to what might be called the literal use. A garment, or a tool, or an object "quelconque" can be hung up, sometimes on a hook. The idea of a person getting hung up on something is easily related to that image, since someone who is "hung up on" another person, or on a stubbornly resisting concept or problem, is to a degree immobilized, held back from getting on with other matters. An interesting (to me) variant of the concept occurs when a cat, doing what curious cats do, gets his collar caught in some projection or protuberance, that is, gets hung up on something. This problem is so widespread that at a certain date the pet stores began to display collars with an elastic insert designed to let a cat slip out of his collar should he accidentally become hung up on something. You see few ordinary leather collars for cats in the pet stores these days.
I was gratified to see you use the correct plural of persona non grata. Suggests that you may have studied L@tin. If so, you probably know that the word "persona" in L@tin means "mask, a character or personage acted [in a play]" (from OED). I once read that a corporation, for legal purposes, can be regarded as a "fictitious person." So when you read about corporate ethics, obviously that would be the ethics of a fictitious person-that is, fictitious ethics. SS