Where "down" is in New England.

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Aug 9 15:59:35 UTC 2010

At 11:01 AM -0400 8/9/10, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>Ah, if only there was room to pick apart all of these niceties! I
>would direct interested readers to the DARE entry for "down," which is
>"used variously to indicate direction toward or away from a center, to
>a lower elevation, downstream, etc." Two relevant New England cites:
>1943 LANE Map 720 (Up in Boston). On the eastern seaboard, from
>Narragansett Bay to New Brunswick... down means 'away from Boston' or
>'down toward the sea' ... On Narragansett Bay .. down means 'toward
>the sea.'
>1983 Beyle How Talk Cape Cod 34, You can often tell just who is native
>to the place and who's not by their sense of direction. For instance,
>you go "down" to Provincetown here, not "up"--even though you'll be
>traveling north for the most part.

Ah, whence also those Lower/Upper Cape locutions, I presume.

There's also the "up (to)" and "down (from)" where the target is
London or a university encountered in the context of British novels
(and real life, I assume) which I realized at some point had nothing
to do with map directions.  The OED (s.v. DOWN adv.) has

2. To some place which is conventionally viewed as lower in position;
in the direction of a current, or with the wind; from the capital to
the distant parts of a country; away from a university

with a typical relevant cite:

"I am in college, and there I intend to remain till I go down."
(_Cambridge Staircase_, 1883)

I forget whether one goes down from one's university to London or up
to London; could it be either, depending on the context and worldview?


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