6

I couldn't get the meaning of: vague up. What does it mean?

Giles: The influx of the undead, the... supernatural occurrences, it's been building for years. There's a reason why you're here and a reason why it's now!

Buffy: Because now is the time my mom moved here.

Giles: Something's coming, something, something, something is - is gonna happen here. Soon!

Buffy: Gee, can you vague that up for me?

Source: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Season 1

  • Could it be some kind of irony? Buffy saying that "you are not clear." – Rashid Nov 6 '14 at 20:03
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    I think it's just a pun. "clear up" => very vague explanation => "vague up". – Kreiri Nov 6 '14 at 20:33
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    Also, phrasalverbdemon.com/particleup.htm – Kreiri Nov 6 '14 at 20:36
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    That's not a pun. – Russell Borogove Nov 6 '14 at 22:16
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    Buffy uses lots of wordplay and nonstandard language. Vague up ("add vagueness to; make more vague") isn't a standard verb-particle idiom―she's just invented it. Yes, it's sarcastic (Giles is already being vaguer than she'd like). No, it's not a pun. No, it's not "incorrect". Also, Buffy is a great show. :-) – snailboat Nov 7 '14 at 9:37
19

To [verb] something up is to apply the qualities of the verb to the object of the action. Vague that up is not a common phrase (actually, I've never heard it used before) but the meaning here is rather clear if you take into account the context. Giles made an extremely vague statement, and Buffy is pointing out this fact by sarcastically requesting that he make the statement even more vague.

  • +1 to you and +1 to "I think it's just a pun. "clear up" => very vague explanation => "vague up". – Kreiri" – learner Nov 6 '14 at 21:50
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    @learner Not every play on words is a pun. – starsplusplus Nov 7 '14 at 0:04
  • Giles is coining a phrase using an established idiom. It's not a common phrase by any stretch of the imagination but, then again, I think that was half the point. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 7 '14 at 11:32
7

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is known for using unconventional and unexpected language for humor. This is not a "correct" phrase, and I would be cautious in repeating it.

The phrase Buffy is starting with is "to [blank] something up", meaning to enhance something with something else. For instance, "to dress that up" might mean to make something more fashionable. "To oil something up" means to apply oil.

Buffy is using the innappropriate word "vague" (meaning unclear and/or incomplete) in place of the expected verb in this sentence. In doing so, she is implying that Giles should treat "vague" as a verb here - in essence, to make something more vague.

So, the joke could be delivered as:

Giles: Something's coming, something, something, something is - is gonna happen here. Soon!

Buffy(Sarcastic): That was too much detail. Please be more vague.

However, because Buffy is a teenager who thinks technically incorrect English is funny, she instead mixes "vague" with another, technically inappropriate phrase. This lets her be sarcastic in an original and unexpected way.

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    Part of the brillance of English is to allow folks "to be sarcastic in an original and unexpected way." Maybe all slang starts as "inappropriate" (depends on how one defines that). But since native speakers are readily able to infer/discern the meaning, it is grammatically correct and semantically correct. I would also caution a nonnative speaker about the phrase, but but not say it is incorrect or inappropriate. Because in the context it is correct and appropriate. That is how slang gets started. Beer me strength. Beer is used as a verb. – user6951 Nov 6 '14 at 21:22
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    I think for the purposes of learners, it's sufficient to say the usage is "technically inappropriate". Unless you've got a reasonable handle on "technically valid" usages I don't see anything except confusion in store, trying to interpret wordplay intended for the natives. On the other hand, almost all teenager wordplay is sarcasm-based so maybe it's worth learning to apply that as a possible explanation to anything that appears to make no sense. – FumbleFingers Nov 6 '14 at 21:38
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    Actually, it's quite clear. I even didn't have to read any of the answers in the post because this comment by @kreiri was more than enough "I think it's just a pun. "clear up" => very vague explanation => "vague up". – Kreiri". However, I enjoyed reading both answers and learned something new along the way; I do appreciate their help. And yes; I'm a learner, but not all learners the same and so are the native speakers. I support the camp that make good use of SE's multiple answers features. – learner Nov 6 '14 at 21:49

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