Green’s Dictionary of Slang

up against phr.

1. (orig. US) facing problems, in difficulties; esp. in phr. up against it.

[US]E.W. Townsend A Daughter of the Tenements 230: I tumbles enough t’ pipe dat dis Mark Waters would be up against it hard if Teresa knowed of dese letters.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 8: Course, there’s times when I finds myself up against it.
[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 105: I am up against it right Al and I don’t know where I am going to head in at.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 3 Jan. 3/5: For a stone-broker to apply to the heads of the fashionable religious sects for relief when he is ‘up against it’ would be about as commonensical as anything that can be imagined — over the left.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 79: He hunted me up, without any solicitation on my part, or that of my friends, and voluntarily provided me with money and a lawyer when I was up against it.
[Aus]N. Lindsay Age Of Consent 26: Have to go dam’ slow on that money or we’ll be up against it.
[US]S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal (2001) 251: Then I realized that I’m married to a Negro, that I’m up against it. Oh, dear God!
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 97: I’m up against it, and only Jeeves can save my name.
[Aus]‘Geoffrey Tolhurst’ Flat 4 King’s Cross (1966) 73: ‘You up against it, kid?’.
[UK]B. Reckord Skyvers III i: I believe you... defeat yourself: up against it with your mates just now, instead of producing a better essay than Adams’s you write three lines.
[Ire](con. 1920s) L. Redmond Emerald Square 20: My mother could act quickly and courageously when she was up against it.
[UK]Observer Screen 22 Aug. 24: She’s up against it.

2. (US prison) addicted to drugs.

[US]L.J. Beck N.Y.’s Chinatown 163: Then the yen-yen came and I used to have to smoke to keep from getting sick. Now I suppose I’m up against it for good.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Up against it, addicted to dope.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 231/2: Up against It. Addicted to, as to a drug habit.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 133: Now Pretty Pill was a good con man, he shoulda have never been broke / but the trouble with the Frenchman, he was up against the coke.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 79: Strung Out When a person is addicted to drugs, either physically or psychologically, he is said to be strung out. […] (Archaic: up against it).

3. the responsibility of.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 July 13/2: [I]f the items in question have since come to light it is ‘up against’ the Senator to publish the glad tidings.

In phrases

go up against (v.)

1. (US drugs) to smoke opium as an addict (rather than an occasional user).

[US]L.J. Beck N.Y.’s Chinatown 161: It’s only Berth; she’s going up against it to-night, ain’t you Berth?

2. (US Und.) to attempt a robbery.

[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 406: Go up against. To attempt thievery. To go up against a safe – to try to blow the safe.
up against one’s duckhouse (also’s fowlhouse, one for one’s duckhouse roof)

(Aus.) denoting a setback, a problem; usu. in phr. that’s one up against your duckhouse.

[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 30: fowlhouse, up against one’s see ‘duck house, up against one’s’ [i.e. ‘A phrase used to describe some setback to a person’s plans’].
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 51: He does a bit of a grin to Himself, and he says, ‘That’s one up against your duckhouse, Jonah!’.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 148: one for your duckhouse roof A setback or snub. Derives from the Australian habit of chalking up a score on the duckhouse roof or wall, denoting a delay or defeat.
up against the wall [the putting of prisoners against a wall to face a firing squad] (orig. milit.)

1. (also ...the bit, …the bricks, ...the gun, ...the push, ...the ropes, ...the wire) facing serious problems.

[US]Hopper & Bechdolt ‘9009’ (1909) 70: Ye can’t help me [...] nobody can’t. I’m up against the push.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 592: up against the bit, adj. phr. Anxious; eager. ‘All the Progressives are right up against the bit.’.
[US]J. Lait ‘It Wasn’t Honest, But It Was Sweet’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 224: Folks never come to him [loan shark] unless they are flat against the rough bricks.
[UK](con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier and Sailor Words 299: Wall, Up Against The: In serious difficulties.
[US]J. Weidman I Can Get It For You Wholesale 65: I went in there all cocky, because I knew we had them up against the ropes.
[US] ‘Hotel Sl.’ in AS XIV:3 Oct. 240/1: up against the gun In difficulties.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 187: Hard times make hard people. I was up against the wall.
[Ire]P. Boland Tales from a City Farmyard 18: That was one situation where the Da might indeed have ‘put me up against the wall,’ had anything serious happened to the mare.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 4 Sept. 7: When you’re right up against the wire, you share a lot.

2. (US campus) foolish, stupid [reinforced by 1960s’ radical slogan, Up against the wall, motherfucker!].

[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 68: Can you believe anyone would think that? Boy, he is really up against the wall!