Politicos 'Stand Up' a New Buzzword

Rob Kyff on

Today, two random dispatches from the Word Front ...

-- "Stand Up" Comedy -- The Washington Post recently reported that the Small Business Administration plans to "stand up a new lending program" to combat the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

Did this mean that the Small Business Administration would promise to meet the lending program at a restaurant and then fail to show up, leaving the poor thing sitting there for half an hour, anxiously checking its watch and cellphone until it finally gives up and leaves?

Nope. As you might have noticed, "stand up" is the current buzzword for "set up" or "establish." In late March, for instance, Air Force magazine reported that the new U.S. Air Force budget "includes a small amount of funding to stand up a new Space Force headquarters," which left me wondering whether it had somehow fallen down.

The article goes on to report that $83.8 million has been allotted for the U.S. Space Command "that is expected to stand up this spring." When a Space Command stands up, I imagine it must be very tall -- to infinity and beyond?

This use of "stand up" to mean "create, initiate" has been around for a while. The earliest such use I could find came in a 2014 U.S. Senate hearing when Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management, testified that his agency was attempting to "stand up" a renewable energy program.

A friend thinks the term might derive from the popularity of precast concrete walls, called "tilt-ups," which workers pour on the ground and then "stand up" in place. Makes sense.


I suppose there's nothing wrong with this trendy phrase, but, as those of us who have ever been stood up know, saying that you plan to "stand up" something can suggest betrayal rather than support. (Are you listening, Susie H., a no-show for our dinner date in March 1982?)

-- Three's Company -- A doctor recently told me he was "tribrid physician," meaning he was certified in three different specialties.

Until now, "tribrid," a blending of "tri-" and "hybrid," has borne only very narrow meanings. "The Werewolf Diaries" website tells me a "tribrid" is a combination of three supernatural species -- vampire, werewolf and witch, while a video tech website reveals that a "Tribrid DVR" is so called because it's compatible with three types of cameras -- analog, HDTV and Internet Protocol.

I say it's time to stand up "tribrid" as a nifty new word for anything involving three elements. And, yes, I mean "establish it," not "abandon it."


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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