to tune up on a smaller, younger kid

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
‘Look out!’ the little guy with the mustache screamed, but he wasn’t looking out, not the little guy with the mustache; the little guy with the mustache, the first normal person with whom Clay Riddell had spoken since this craziness began –who had, in fact, spoken to him, which had probably taken some courage, under the circumstances –was frozen in place, his eyes bigger than ever behind the lenses of his gold-rimmed spectacles. And was the crazy guy going for him because of the two men, the one with the mustache was smaller and looked like easier prey? If so, maybe Mr Speaking-in-Tongues wasn’t completely crazy, and suddenly Clay was mad as well as scared, mad the way he might have been if he’d looked through a schoolyard fence and seen a bully getting ready to tune up on a smaller, younger kid.
Source: Cell by Stephen King

What is your interpretation of King’s usage of tune up in this context? This meaning of tune up is idiosyncratic to SK, and not used in conversations, right?

Thank you.
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    "Tune up" means beat up. It is not idiosyncratic to King, but is instead fairly common slang. However, I have never heard it used with "on":

    Tony:What happened to Joe?
    Nick: He borrowed money from a loan shark, and didn't pay him back on time. The loan shark sent a couple of his enforcers over to tune him up a bit so that he doesn't do that again.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Last edited:

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    "Tune up" means beat up. It is not idiosyncratic to King, but is instead fairly common slang. However, I have never heard it used with "on":

    Tony:What happened to Joe?
    Nick: He borrowed money from a loan shark, and didn't pay him back on time. The loan shark sent a couple of his enforcers over to tune him up a bit so that he doesn't do that again.
    We called it "calibrating" in the Navy. :)

    The loan shark sent a couple of his enforcers over to calibrate him so that he doesn't do that again.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    The text does not say that the bully was going to "tune a smaller, younger kid up," but that he he was going to tune himself up "on a smaller, younger kid."

    We called it "calibrating" in the Navy. :)
    Yeah, but you didn't say "to calibrate on him," did you?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Wouldn't "tune up on someone" work by analogy with "beat up on someone"?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I took it to mean that the bully was preparing to tune up / limber up / do a practice run on a smaller vulnerable kid.

    But those beating-up euphemisms are interesting!
     
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