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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 29 16:44:45 EDT 2017

Laurence Horn wrote:
> Perfect.  So it’s been around longer than I thought—and it’s NYC-based,
> which supports my hunch.
>> Garson O'Toole wrote:
>> Below is an instance of "upstreamed" with the desired sense that
>> probably appeared in a 1976 book.
>> Year: 1976
>> Title: The blood-red dream
>> Author: Michael Collins
>> Publisher: New York: Dodd, Mead
>> Series: A Red badge novel of suspense
>> Database: Google Books Snippet; data may be inaccurate and should be
>> verified on paper
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> He walked toward Lexington, turned south waving for a taxi. He was no
>> New Yorker. Going downstream was no way to get a cab at any time, and
>> never in the rain. I upstreamed him, got my taxi, and had it follow
>> him slowly down the avenue.
>> [End excerpt]

Here is a citation in a recent book about manners (or lack thereof).
The word "upstream" is used in the domain of taxi interception, but it
is not used as a verb. Yet, the passages below suggest how the verb
was constructed.

Year: 2012
Title: Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners
Author: Henry Alford
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Database: Google Books Preview

[Begin excerpt]
To wit, it is my belief that if indeed you are in great need of a
cab—you're late for an appointment, or it is raining, or it is two in
the morning and you are standing on a dicey part of Flatbush—then it
is permissible to walk upstream of another party that is also hailing
a cab, as long as you walk far enough upstream that that party cannot
see you. Well, at least not glare at you.
[End excerpt]

[Begin excerpt]
Hail Caesar

Toward the end of my interview with Miss Manners in the lobby of my DC
hotel, I mentioned that I'd been teaching foreigners how to steal a
"I can never get a cab in New York," she told me. "How do you get the
cab to stop?'
"They're not seeing you?"
"Yes. Or something. I think they can tell who's not a New Yorker."
"Are you standing out far enough in the street? You've got to be out
in the traffic."
"Out in the traffic, but not run over."
"Right," I said. "But you've got to be a little brazen. And the rule
for stealing a cab is that you've got to walk at least a block
[End excerpt]


>> On Mon, May 29, 2017 at 3:52 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>> …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.
>>> https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/nyregion/metropolitan-diary-upstreamed-hailing-a-cab-on-west-end-avenue.html
>>> 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.
>>> LH
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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