Geographic "up" and "down"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jan 12 16:08:06 UTC 2013

This subject has been discussed before.

I am only a amateur word freak and ferociously competitive antedater,
but I think both of you are wrong.  I cite "down East", which can
mean "northeast, in Maine", whether said by someone in the lower New
England States or by a resident on the spot.  So "down" can be
neither "nearby" nor "south".  For further disputation, see the list
archives -- search for "down east" from 2000 through 2011.

Also, to some "downtown" means the central, business district, while
"uptown" means the outer locations, often residential.  (And not
everywhere -- New York City has a downtown and an uptown, whereas
Boston has only a downtown -- I think.)  See messages having the
Subject line ' "Uptown" v. "downtown" w/meaning: "main shopping
district"  ' as well as messages with the Subject line "midtown".

The professionals will have more to say.


At 1/12/2013 12:08 AM, Kenneth Wolcott wrote:

>My (often too) significant other and I spent dinner debating the meaning of
>"up", "down", and "over" in terms of relational geography (up/down the
>street, up on Woodward, down to the market, etc).
>One of us believes their use is a matter of distance - "up the street" may
>mean a few blocks in either direction, whereas "down the street" implies
>within a block or two of the reference point. Similarly, "up in the market
>( referring to Eastern Market, a neighborhood of Detroit a few miles from
>us)"  just means a bit of a long walk away, and is perfectly acceptable -
>even if the market is mostly east and slightly south from our house.
>The other (incorrectly) believes that "up", "down", and "over" have to be
>used as they would on a traditional map, where you keep northern things on
>the top (up the street means north of the reference point), and anything
>mostly east or west must be relatively "over", never "up" or "down". When
>you say "over to tim's" you're not making a geographic statement, you're
>doing some other thing. Thus, "over to the riverfront" means some
>uninterpretable thing, but never means walking south to the riverfront, etc.
>We were going to start asking people we knew what they think, but I'm
>worried that posing the  question would be priming the subject. Since
>dialectologists seem like a group that's less vulnerable to that sort of
>thing, we agreed to ask you guys what you think about up and down, and
>whether you knew of any Science that's been done touching on the topic.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list