Submitted by Hairy Scot on August 1, 2011

Stood down

In the antipodes it is common to use “stood down” as a synonym for suspended, eg - “The Commander of a Navy vessel has been stood down from his position following allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour on a recent port visit.”. But somehow this does not sound right. A person can stand down, ie: resign or give up a post, but I am not sure that it is correct to say a person was stood down. Why not just say “suspended”?

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Hello hairyscot,

You said the following on another post:
"The use of phrases like "in America', or "in the US", or "according to Webster's" tends to destroy the credibility of any argument about spelling or grammar."

Aren't you using a phrase of this kind when you say, "In the antipodes"? Isn't this phrase, as you use it in your post, a way to sound authoritative without giving any actual support? This is what you were criticizing someone else for, and it seems you're doing the same thing here. Moreover, I'm curious to know the source of your information about the antipodes. What is it?

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Hello HairyScot.

You are wrong about the definition of "to be stood down." In Canada, as in the antipodes, the phrase is most commonly used to mean "to be in a southerly position relative to one's homeland." For a Canadian citizen, this may mean that the person is in the U.S.

The meaning in dispute ("to be suspended") is actually only the second most common usage. Be careful, though, not to split the infinitive: you may say, "to stand down somebody," but never "to stand somebody down."

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While some may disagree, I would not use "to stand down" to mean "to resign". More often, to sand down means to cease hostilities or cease preparation for hostilities. Telling someone to stand down is like saying, stop your "sabre-rattling". Instead, I would use "step down" to mean "resign".

In any case, while I have never heard "to be stood down" before, it's certainly a plausible construction. Someone or something can stand up, or can also be made to stand up by someone or something else. Similarly, if someone else forced the commander to stand down, then he would have been stood down by that person, yes? ...was compelled to resign rather than simply resigned.

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"stand (somebody) down - if a soldier stands down or is stood down, he stops working for the day" - Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (BrE) - I'm sure I've heard the order "Stand the men down, Sergeant", on British TV .
http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/stand_1

In this case, the New Zealand Navy Commander seems be having rather a long day off. This story is from an NZ news site, so maybe the extension to "suspended" is newspaper speak. But it's quite a logical one. (Just google the quote above)

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It's in the OED, with citations from The Daily Telegraph and The Times (London).

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I was in the Army (U.S.) and I never heard "stand down" for suspending a person or even to resign ... I think that is a British usage. It meant more to relax or stop what you're doing.

For me, I agree with you, it doesn't sound right to me either.

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oops, that's ...stand..., not ...sand...

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I've wondered this myself and just thought of it as a euphemism. I hear it more from high schools, "the student has been stood down as a result of his behaviour". Some might have a problem with suspended sounding too harsh.

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Hello acorn1.
Please see my response in the other thread.
As for the source of the phrase "stood down":
it appeared recently in a New Zealand newspaper and is in fact used frequently by the press and sports media in both NZ and Australia to indicate that someone has been suspended for some kind of indiscipline or misbehaviour.

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"to be stood down"; is an "upsidedown" expression

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The opposite of "to be stood up"??

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