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'Man Up' has Long Been Part of the American Vernacular

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden should “man up and come back to the United States,” he was using language that has long been a part of manly American vernacular.

From sports to politics, the term “man up” has been more than tossed around the locker room.

The term originally was a way to express the verb “to man” - as in to man the factory with enough manpower, according to a New York Times article on the history of the phrase written by language expert Ben Zimmer.

Today, though, the term has sometimes evolved into one more suited to backroom politics or the sports field rather than in the august halls of diplomacy.

According to Zimmer’s explanation to the Times, it is an exhortation used to mean: “Don’t be a sissy. Toughen up” or “Do the right thing; be a mensch, a Yiddish term for an honorable or upright person."

Zimmer traces the steady rise in use of the term in advertising pointed at men.

The web site for the No Fear energy drink used the “Man Up” slogan accompanied by an aggressive rock soundtrack.

Miller Lite beer ran television commercials featuring a voice-over that growled: “Man up, because if you’re drinking a light beer without great pilsner taste, you’re missing the point of drinking beer.”

According to Google Trends, the use of the term in news headlines has been increasing steadily since 2005 with a burst of interest in 2011 because of a short-lived television show on the ABC television network called “Man Up!”

The series, which was cancelled after eight episodes due to low ratings, centered on the childish behavior of men.