[Ads-l] How prevalent is "to upstream"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon May 29 15:52:57 EDT 2017

…or in the passive, “to be upstreamed”, as employed in this NYT Metropolitan Diary item a couple of weeks ago:

Dear Diary:

On a cold Friday night on West End Avenue at 83rd Street, an older man and woman hailed a cab that flashed its lights in response. As the cab waited for the light to change, a young man grabbed it. The older man could be heard saying to his wife that being “upstreamed” was part of New York City life and to be accepted. The young man unexpectedly jumped from the cab, approached the couple, apologized and turned toward Broadway to find another cab. The older man saw a second cab and hailed it, calling out to the younger man, who happily climbed in. Only in New York can being upstreamed create an encouraging circle of good citizenship.


It seemed as though everyone involved, and several commenters, were familiar with the term (as well as the practice, advertent or in-), but I’m pretty sure I’d never previously encountered the lexical item, despite growing up in and around NYC. True, I've very rarely taken taxis and you can’t be upstreamed by someone at a bus or subway stop.   Is this a particularly NYC expression?  Googling, I do find a number of examples (it’s not new) but not all *that* many, once you filter out the irrelevant homonym from the tech world.  Well, I suppose not entirely irrelevant since the software expression ultimately employs the same metaphor (upstream is ‘closer to the source’), so maybe it involves polysemy rather than homonymy.

The dictionaries I consulted (OED, AHD, Urban) don’t include an entry for the (active or passive) verb. 

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

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