to take on 'bout life


Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Wellingborough Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)

"And what's the use of bein' snivelized!" ( I think: civilized) said he to me one night during our watch on deck; "snivelized chaps only learns the way to take on
'bout life, and snivel.

My question: to take on about life?, if so, what does it mean? “On and about seems to me redundant. Or it means bout?
  • baldpate

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    In this case the "on" is part of the phrasal verb "to take on", which means "to become very upset, especially needlessly".

    It is used colloqially in British English, particularly nowadays in the phrase "to take on so" which is most often in the negative when exhorting someone to calm down, to not worry - see for example in this thread.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think here, rather than “become upset”, it implies “make a fuss” (make a song and dance about everything).


    Senior Member
    I got it, right. Other sentences following confirm your comment
    lik this: "You don't see any Methodist chaps feelin'
    dreadful about their souls..."

    thank you so much.
    < Previous | Next >