I have a question about this:

It was not long before the infectious rhythm was spreading throughout the ranks. Footweary soldiers started to pick up their step in cadence with the growing chorus of hearty male voices. Instead of a down trodden, fatigued company, here marched 200 soldiers with heads up, a spring to their step, and happy smiles on their faces. This transformation occurred with the beginning of the Duckworth Chant.

What is "pick up their step"? Dictionaries don't seem to cover this usage. Could it be military lingo?

  • Try looking up the phrasal verb pick up meaning to increase speed or activity – Jim Oct 16 '14 at 3:48
  • 1
    It's hard to find a dictionary with a good definition here, but among the dictionaries I checked, pick up M-W Learner's Dictionary, sense 5 was the best. The phrase here is very much like 5c "pick up the pace". (Make sure you scroll down to the "pick up [phrasal verb]" section.) – user230 Oct 16 '14 at 3:52
  • Its more of an idiomatic expression that describes the soldiers speeding up or making a greater effort to march. But snailboat is pushing you in the right direction. – Tushar Oct 16 '14 at 4:26
  • To me, looks like it's about pacing in harmony not about picking up the pace. FYI, I'm not a native speaker of English. – learner Oct 16 '14 at 8:55

To "pick up" is an English idiom meaning "to hurry" or "to increase speed."

Soldiers are often told to "pick it up!" by their commanders when they're not moving fast enough, an object which is accelerating is often said to be "picking up speed," and "pick up the pace" is a common phrase to urge someone to act more rapidly.

"Pick up your step" is (in my personal experience) a less common phrase than "pick up the pace," but its meaning is ultimately the same: an increase in speed, in this case related to the speed of walking/running.

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