Buck up, little camper!

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Buck up, little camper!

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Jan 27, 2004 9:53 pm

Can anyone pinpoint the origin of this amusing little phrase, which I recently came across for the first time? I am wondering if it is from some now-buried film or novel whose only visible mark in the language is (perhaps) this particular fragment.

While I am at it, does anyone know how the first part of the phrase, "Buck up!" (meaning "Cheer up!" or "Pull yourself together!"), originated?

Among a variety of possibilities I have encountered are: 1) A corruption of the French phrase "Beau coup!", meaning "A fine blow!" or "Well struck!"; 2) The bouncing of the ‘buck board’, formerly a four-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in the USA whose floor-boards were evidently notoriously springy; 3) the joy of the average American on catching sight of a dollar coin; 4) A now-obsolete exhortation to a young gentleman (especially one brought up in the countryside) to dress smartly in town, i.e. to emulate the ‘bucks’ or dandies of the late 18th and early 19th centuries; 5) To be like a buck rabbit, i.e. to be apparently irrepressible (on account of the notoriously rapidly rate at which rabbits reproduce).

I would love to believe that all of these accounts are correct, but such a conjunction of simultaneous origins seems unlikely.

I would be grateful for any definitive information or evidence concerning the true origin of "Buck up!"

Submitted by Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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Buck up, little camper!

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jan 27, 2004 10:08 pm

could it be another version of "buckle up", meaning tighten your belt and get going?
Reply from sajid sathak (antwerpen - Brazil)
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Buck up, little camper!

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jan 27, 2004 10:22 pm

World Wide Words (28 August, 1999) says:
It is a phrase from nineteenth century Britain, derived from those 'bucks' or dandies who were regarded as the acme of snappy dressing in the Regency period. (In its turn, that word came from 'buck' in the sense of the male deer, and had a slightly older meaning still that suggested male gaiety or spirit, with unsubtle suggestions of rutting deer.) In its dandyfied sense 'buck up' first meant to dress smartly, for a man to get out of those comfortable old clothes and into something drop-dead gorgeous. Since to do so was often a fillip to the spirit, the phrase shifted sometime around the 1880s to its modern meaning. [[It seems to have been public school slang to start with, probably from Winchester College, and rather stiff-upper-lip British. It could suggest that the person being addressed should stop acting like a wuss, ninny or coward, as here from Edith Nesbit’s The Wouldbegoods of 1901: “Be a man! Buck up!”, and was something of a cliché at one time in stories of Englishmen abroad bravely facing adversity. From the early years of the twentieth century, it could also be an injunction on somebody to get a move on or hurry up; here’s an example, from D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers of 1913: “ ‘Half-past eight!’ he said. ‘We’d better buck up’ ”.]]
Reply from Susumu Enomoto (Shiraokamachi - Japan)
Note: [[ ]] has been added to Susumu's original posting and is included in the 2009 World Wide Words posting listed here. -- Forum Moderator
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon May 18, 2009 6:20 am

BUCK UP, an expression I don’t hear around that often, reared it’s head a surprising 4 times in my reading last month (but with 458,000 Google hits, at my coordinates, it is certainly far from uncommon):
<2009 “Hoping to buck up a sick industry, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told newspaper executives today to adapt to the new online landscape, including personalizing information for readers based on the articles they previously clicked on.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Washington), 7 April> [[This Seattle paper ceased print publication in March in favor of an online version]]

<2009 “Mr. Obama's visit to the spy agency [[CIA]] was clearly timed to buck up officials and workers there after his authorization last week of the release of a series of memos on interrogation methods approved under President George W. Bush.”—CBSNews.com, 20 April>

<2009 “Obama's visit to the spy agency [[CIA]] was timed to buck up the agency after the memo release, which he accompanied with the message that ‘it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice, that they will not be subject to prosecution.’ He did not specifically address the policymakers.”—AP Worldstream, 20 April>

<2009 “Europeans and Canadians have spent tens of billions of dollars in Cuba, and it’s all gone straight into the pockets of the regime. If our goal is to transform Cuba, we should be doing everything possible to BUCK UP indigenous dissident groups—and keep turning the screws on Raúl and Fidel Castro.”—The Week, Vol.9, Issue 409, 24 April>
Sooo, I figured I should check into it and see what I could see. And, as I discovered, Erik (see above) had raised this question in Wordwizard in days of yore and Susumu, a regular from those days, offered up an explanation from World Wide Words, which helped answer part of this posting’s question but not the intriguing LITTLE CAMPER portion.

Susumu gave the date of the above Worldwide Words discussion as 28 August, 1999. They have since removed the dates from their listings and when I checked their current version of BUCK UP I found that there were several additional sentences [[which I’ve added to Susumu’s posting above]], and it's hard to say if those were added later or if Susumu just didn’t include all of it. In any case, the current complete Worldwide Words listing (best concise treatment I was able to find, which is in agreement with and distills out the OED's long and detailed coverage) can be found here.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY

BUCK UP Phrasal Verbal: To summon one's courage or spirits; hearten: My friends tried to buck me up after I lost the contest. [[[buck]] is ultimately from]] Middle English bukke, from Old English buc, male deer, and bucca, male goat.]
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CASSELL’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG

BUCK UP [mid-19th century and still in use] verb 1) To encourage, to cheer someone up. 2) To cheer (oneself) up. 3) To improve [originally Winchester College jargon; ultimately Standard English buck, to boost]. [[Note: ‘Winchester College’ is a private secondary school in Winchester, England]]
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OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

TO BUCK UP a) verb intransitive. To cheer up, be encouraged. Also transitive in causal sense.
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THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF IDIOMS does not list buck up as a main listing (odd!) but instead provides the following related idiom, which I have never come across (has anyone else?) with buck up discussed under it.

BUCK UP YOUR IDEAS informal: Make more effort; become more energetic and hardworking. [Buck here refers to the lively action of a horse jumping with all its feet together and its back arched. buck up in its modern senses of ‘cheer up’ and ‘hurry up’ is first found in late 19th-century school slang].[[Also, The Oxford Dictionary of Slang lists buck up as being ‘dated’ and deriving from buck meaning a man of spirit, and meaning ‘cheer up.’
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The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and other archived sources:
<1844 “‘I don't see the trouble,’ said Mrs Fitzgig, ‘why can't a man buck up?’”—Graham’s Magazine, January, page 38>

<1889 “s.v., (Winchester College) . . . to ‘buck up’ is to be glad.”—Dictionary of Slang by Barrère & Leland>

<1890 “Buck up, verbal phrase (Winchester College).— To be glad; pleased. . . . The usual expression is ‘Oh buck up,’ a phrase which at Westminster School would have a very different meaning, namely, ‘exert yourself.’”—Slang and its Analogues by Farmer & Henley, page 352>

<1894 “Buck up, mate; you've no call to be yaller, nor a perminent bloo, heither!”—Punch, 27 October, page 193/1>

<1901 “Buck up, Hurrah! The original meaning, which is still used. Hence later:—Cheer up, hurry up.”—Winchester College Notions by W. H. Lawson et al, page 14>

<1906 “Don't spoil it all by being weepy. . . Come, buck up, like a dear, and wish me joy.”—What became of Pan by B. von Hutten, II. ix>

<1909 “Never saw her so larky. This has bucked her up something wonderful.”—Tono-Bungay by H. G. Wells, II. ii. §1>

<1910 “Now and again one does help a lame dog over a stile which bucks one up, you know.”—Simon the Jester by W. J. Locke, xviii>

<1926 “I asked the medical members . . . in particular whether it was impossible that microbic diseases . . . might be benefited by ‘bucking up’ the patient.”— Lay Thoughts of a Dean by W. R. Inge, page 233>

<1966 “As if to buck us up after our recent loss, he promised us poultry on the table.”— Father clears Out by J. Hackston, page 37>

<1991 “The aim, it seemed, was to buck up their spirits in the face of the recession and to try to keep up enthusiasm for investing in the inner cities.”—The Economist, 13 July>

<2005 “Buck up, Europe. Though lacking a coherent ideology, a genuine political unity and a significant military, you have stumbled upon a way of life that is preferable even to America's.”—International Herald Tribune, 25 November>

<2008 “Buck up fast or we will get thrashed. . . England players have warned their team-mates they face a repeat of the 5-1 thrashing dished out by India in 2006 unless they can hit back quickly in the second of seven one-day internationals in Indore [[India]] tomorrow.”—Daily Mail (London), 16 November>

<2009 “Perhaps the credit crunch is no bad thing. At least those who provide poor service will have to buck up or go bust.”—Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), 6 May>
Now for BUCK UP LITTLE CAMPER. With 38,000 Google hits (coordinates considered), this is not exactly an obscure term, although I haven’t seen it before. Its meaning is BUCK UP and the LITTLE CAMPER just adds a cutesy flourish. The camper refers to the child at summer camper who is called on to be brave, have courage, take heart, . . . in the face of danger, difficulty, etc.

I couldn’t find the expression listed in any dictionaries, much less its source. But after doing a search (see sampling in the following quotes), I found that all indications point to its first seeing the light of day in the 1985 movie Better Off Dead:
<1985 “Quote: Buck Up Little Camper . . . Movie Title Better Off Dead”—moviequotes.com>

<1985 “Memorable quotes for Better Off Dead: Buck up little camper, we’ll beat that slope together.”—IMDB (The Internet Movie Database)

<2002 “One goal in 65 minutes. Buck up, little camper. Things will get better.”—Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado), 11 October>

<2004 “‘I am one of those annoying people who refuses to believe that the radical potential of the zine [[magazines]] became obsolete in 1994.’ (We don't believe it either, Liz!! And given the number of zine fests popping up all over the country, many others don't either; so buck up, Little Camper.)”—Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, Summer Vol. 25, Issue 4, 22 June, page 28>

<2006 “Two weeks later, I returned to the dress shop. One of the girls I had terrorized now approached me solemnly. ‘My boyfriend left, too,’ she whispered. ‘For a trapeze artist.’ . . . ‘Buck up, little camper,’ I said as I hugged her goodbye.”—nytimes.com, 21 May, page E54>

<2006 “Buck Up Little Camper: Debating whether to send a 6-year-old away for the summer.”—Slate.com, 10 June>

<2006 “Memorable quotes for Hannah Montana Mascot Love [[TV Series, 26 May 2 (Season 1, Episode 8)]]: So it was a lot of water and some unidentifiable sludge, get a tetanus shot and buck up little camper.”—IMDB (The Internet Movie Database)

<2008 “But hey, I hope this tidbit cheers you up: You placed exactly the same as Kellie Pickler and Jasmine Trias [[on American Idol]], both of whom are doing fantastic right now. So, buck up little camper. We'll climb that hill together.”—Variety.com, 24 April>

<2009 “Last week brought news that Lindsay Lohan’s new movie, Labor Pains, will not be coming soon to a theater near you. . . . Our advice to LiLo? Buck up, little camper: It could be worse. Here are nine movies that failed to make the theatrical cut.”—The Daily Beast, 28 March>
Ken G – May 17, 2009
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon May 18, 2009 9:40 am

.. Ken .. I wonder how the phrase, happy little camper fits into the above .. I couldn't find any direction .. maybe you could find something in your sources ..

WoZ the happy little camper
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 18, 2009 9:48 am

Ken,

The teacher's exhortation to a member of the class to "Buck up your ideas!" was extremely common when I was a child in the 1960s and 70s. I'm sure I did not escape it either.

In the rather old-fashioned schools I went to it was the teacher's way of indicating that more effort from the pupil was being required than was forthcoming. This sometimes even amounted to bullying by the teacher, an approach that it is nowadays fashionable in the education industry to euphemise with the label 'tough love'.

Even today I am still unsure whether my ideas are bucked up or not.
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by Bobinwales » Mon May 18, 2009 12:26 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote: Even today I am still unsure whether my ideas are bucked up or not.
What a funny way you type your fs
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 18, 2009 4:23 pm

As Shakespeare said, "Where the bee bucks, there buck I".
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by trolley » Mon May 18, 2009 7:29 pm

We never used it in the sense of to encourage or cheer up. For us, it always meant to try harder or to apply oneself. It was more like "buckle down".
"These grades aren't good enough, young man. You had better buck up."
Although I'm not sure if this useage is peculiar to my card-playing cronies but it was also a way of saying "ante up". Step up, put up, pay up, pony up.
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Re: Buck up, little camper!

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 18, 2009 10:48 pm

To 'buck up' when you are playing cards makes an obvious play on buck = dollar.

The 'try harder' sense often seems to be expressed today in the USA by the horribly over-used expression 'step up to the plate', which I know comes from baseball.
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