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On, upon

Posted by ESC on June 22, 2001

In Reply to: On, upon posted by R. Berg on June 22, 2001

: : : : Hi!

: : : : What does "when someone is hard upon you" mean?
: : : : In the first place is there a phrase "hard upon"?

: : : : Thanks in advance.

: : : Yes, there is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "hard upon (on)" as "close before or after so as to press upon." Example: "It was now hard upon three o'clock" . For one person to be hard upon another in a literal sense would require some such setting as a footrace where two runners are close together on the track and the one behind is closing the gap. The phrase might apply figuratively to a business competitor, for instance, or to a detective hot on somebody's trail. I don't know whether the dictionary meaning fits the context where you found the phrase, though.

: : At dinner a child spills a glass of milk. Parent 1 helps the child clean up the spill and says, "Please be more careful." Parent 2 makes the child clean it up and then sends him to his room with no dessert and no TV for a week. It might be said: "He's hard on his child." Meaning excessively strict, over-the-top regarding discipline. I have also heard it used to mean judgmental, unforgiving and harsh: "He's awfully hard on people."

: "Hard on" in a similar sense means "damaging to," as in "Jogging on sidewalks is hard on your knee joints" or "That hailstorm was hard on the seedlings," but I haven't heard "upon" used in that expression.

You're right again R Berg. I didn't notice that the phrase in question was "hard upon." But don't be too hard on me.