To ginger up

The other day I came across the expression to ginger up in an English-French dictionary (it’s secouer or animer in French). Examples given include:

– the ideal man to ginger up the chat show formula
– Attempts to ginger up the tennis club’s social nights proved unsuccessful.

The French word secouer is used in the context of ‘gingering up’ a person or organisation, while animer, which is related to animate, is used when gingering up involves making things more exciting. I can see how the application of real or metaphorical ginger might spice things up, but have never heard or seen the phrase ‘ginger up’ used in this context. Have you?

According to the Phrase Finder, to ginger up means to excite or enthuse, and an alternative version of the expression is ‘to get someone’s ginger up’. The former version was recorded by Francis Grose, in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785): “To feague a horse, to put ginger up a horse’s fundament, to make him lively and carry his tail well.” It then appears again in 1895 in reference to baseball.

The latter version appears frist appears in print in 1843 in The Attaché by Thomas Haliburton, or Sam Slick in England: “Curb him [a horse], talk Yankee to him, and get his ginger up.”

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This entry was posted in English, French, Language, Words and phrases.

4 Responses to To ginger up

  1. dreaminjosh says:

    To feague a horse… wow.

  2. Petréa Mitchell says:

    I think “feague” there is a variant spelling of “fig”; I’ve read about that being an archaic English criminal term for, well, putting a fig somewhere that it would make a horse raise its tail and thus allegedly look more presentable.

  3. D.Jay says:

    I would say “to spice things up”, but then ginger was a generic term for any spice at one time.

  4. pittmirg says:

    I also find it rather strange how “to ginger up” and “gingerly” have such unrelated meanings. When I first saw the latter, I’d have guessed it meant something quite opposite to its actual meaning (I’d think it’s ‘in a vivid, excited manner’). Actually the adverb may be etymologically unrelated to the word ‘ginger’ but etymonline isn’t too sure regarding its provenance.