A reader asks,
Lately, I hear announcers introducing acts by saying GIVE IT UP FOR, rather than LET’S HAVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR. Is this a new expression?
The verb give/gave/given has been in the English vocabulary for more than a thousand years. The earliest OED citation is from Beowulf:
Beowulf 1719 Nallas beagas geaf Denum æfter dome.
Note: The reference is to Heremod, a Danish king who did not honor his men by giving them treasure as custom required. A literal translation of this example is “Not at all rings gave [he] to the Danes for honor.”
The OED entry for give requires more than a hundred items to clarify the various ways in which this verb is or has been used throughout the centuries. The expression “give it up for so-and-so” is just one of the verb’s more recent uses.
The earliest OED citation for “give it up” in the sense of “applaud,” dated 1990, is from a Web source:
Hey folks, let’s give it up for Andy! One huge round of applause please!— Re: ShrinkIt 3.0 in comp.sys.apple2 (Usenet newsgroup).
The basic meaning of give is “to make another person the recipient of something in the possession of the giver.” When an audience is asked “to give it up” for a speaker or performer, they are being asked to show appreciation by applauding. In this way, they give their approval.
An earlier expression referring to the act of applauding links give with hand. At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck (aka Robin Goodfellow) asks for applause this way:
Give me your hands, if we be friends: And Robin shall restore amends.
Audiences are said to “give a hand” to performers. Performers hope to “get a big hand” from their audiences. No one seems to mind such established circumlocutions for applaud, but the latest expression provokes annoyance:
Does anybody else hate the expression, “give it up” for whoever it is instead of just clapping? It drives me mad.
Oh, I must say that I hate the recent, Put your hands together for. Or the even more egregious, Let’s give it up for…
“Give it up” annoys me too. I hate this new age talk, it just sounds lazy.
I hate “give it up for [so-and-so]” when announcers introduce entertainment acts.
Love it or hate it, “give it up for” in the sense of “please applaud” has caught on with large numbers of speakers.
Note to ESL learners: In some contexts, “give it up” or “give up” can also mean surrender, abandon, and quit:
The house is completely surrounded. You might as well give it up.
Eventually he took a huge risk and gave himself up to the Chicago police.
Unable to overtake the planes, he gave up the chase three miles from his own lines.
How many people do something just once and are ready to give up?
Give it up! You can’t win.