Stand down

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2 comments on this post.
  1. Sylvia Joyce:

    Dear Word Detective,

    If it originated in World War I, could it be that “Stand down” was actually a literal command to soldiers being relieved that they should step “down” from the raised firing step to “stand” in the bottom of their trench?

  2. Steve Dunham:

    In recent years I’ve seen “stand up” as an antonym to “stand down,” even though the phrase already had the antonym “stand to.” Is this called a back formation? I suspect that some people heard the phrase “stand down” and, unaware of “stand to,” decided it needed an opposite, “stand up.”

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