Where "down" is in Old England

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Fri Aug 13 16:55:30 UTC 2010

On Wed., 11 Aug 2010, Lynne Murphy <m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK> wrote: 

> When I first came to England, members of the Scrabble club I joined (read:
> pensioners with opinions about language) informed me that one could only go
> 'up' to London and that this was based on the way the railways use the
> term.  When I tried that out on younger sorts, they disagreed and were more
> likely to go with _up_ = 'northward'.

> London is pretty much due north of us here in Brighton, though, so I don't
> have a good sense of how much _down_='southward' is used versus
> up_='toward London' when one is in a position to choose.

> Lynne

--On den 10 augusti 2010 11:53 +0100 Damien Hall <djh514 at YORK.AC.UK> wrote:

>> Outside the Oxford and Cambridge context, as has been remarked, one can go
>> 'up' to London from anywhere in the country, but it's my impression
>> (confirmed by a straw poll here in the office) that only high-society
>> people do that. So a high-society person might go up to London from his
>> family seat in the North of the country; for everyone else, the
>> geographical 'up = North' sense trumps everything.

I've always been fascinated by the "ups" and the "downs" in 19th-century English novels (my favorite reading). 

Here's a sentence from Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds (the journey referred to begins in London): "Lady Eustace had been rather cross on the journey down to Scotland." 

And later: " 'My cousin attends me down to Scotland.' "

In all, the phrase "down to Scotland" appears 12 times in the novel  and "down in Scotland" 10 times, all from the perspective of points to the south, mostly London. 

Pat O'Conner

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

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