For the student, every paper and book she has ever read on the French Revolution is instantly available in her e-memory. Besides the main text and four papers she is using in class, she pulls up another twentythree references that she has encountered over the years.

pull up has synonyms like: extract, pull out, pull, pull up, take out, draw out, rip out, tear out

What could mean in the example sentence?

  • You haven't given the full context, but most likely information "pulled up" in this way is being retrieved using a computer to access detailed information held in a database. But what do I know? I certainly don't understand exactly what instantly available in her e-memory means. Feb 19, 2021 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


pull up

  1. To procure and open a source of information about someone or something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "pull" and "up."

Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

I think this definition is not quite correct. The actual use seems to be more specific. When we pull up information, it is always, or almost always pulled up on a computer.

So, I might modify that definition like so: To use a computer to procure and open a source of information about someone or something.

Here's an example from 1989, which is about as far back as I can trace the expression:

In related news, radio station WHTK in Hilton Head, S.C....patched together a database of relief information on donated IBM-compatible personal computers.


"We take a question over the phone, pull up the information, they put it on the air so that everybody hears it who might have the same question"

Computerworld Oct 2, 1989

So what does your example text mean? When the student "pulls up another 23 references," she is finding and opening 23 files on a computer.

By the way, I feel compelled to point out that that text (Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything - C. Gordon Bell, Jim Gemmell (2009)) has a number of inaccuracies, and this one in particular bothered me:

Gone are the days of writing to other libraries to get material not found in my local library.

A few years ago, I managed the interlibrary loan program at a university research library. I'm sure the number of requests we received was smaller than it was in decades prior, but transferring physical books (and, for more obscure reasons, electronic copies of those books) does still happen very often.

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