Where "down" is in New England.

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Aug 9 16:25:03 UTC 2010

I understand Ben's limitations.  (I am currently trying -- without
success -- to turn a 110-page essay into something shorter that a
journal will even consider riffling.)  I was merely expressing my
personal disappointment, from up here in Arlington, MA.

I've always taken "Upper Cape" as meaning closer to where people
actually live (as opposed to spend their summers or retire), and
"Lower Cape as meaning farther away.  But I suppose that doesn't
prove anything about etymology.


At 8/9/2010 11:01 AM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 10:19 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> >
> > In his as usual entertaining "On Language" column in the NYTimes last
> > Sunday ("Beach Blanket Lingo"), Ben Zimmer wrote:
> >
> > "The down of "down the shore" and "down the ocean" doesn't
> > necessarily imply a southward journey. As in many dialects along the
> > Eastern Seaboard, down can be used as a preposition indicating
> > movement from the inland toward the shoreline."
> >
> > I am disappointed that Ben did not distinguish and elaborate for the
> > New England seaboard, where "down east" means "*up* (north[east]ward)
> > towards Maine."
>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.
>Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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