"down train"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Jan 13 20:33:29 UTC 2013

At 1/13/2013 02:19 PM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at netscape.com> wrote:
>Reverend Spooner is supposed to have told a student "You have hissed
>my mystery lectures.  You have tasted an entire worm.  You will
>leave on the next town drain" implying the existence of a "down train".

It's not clear whether James was wondering, but I did --

A.  In a University context:

The quotation, according to Wikipedia, is "You have hissed all my
mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford
on the next town drain."  Spooner (1894--1930) was Warden of New
College, Oxford.

Dismissed students were "sent down".  OED "to send down", "2. To
compel (an undergraduate) to leave the University (permanently or for
a specified time), as a punishment."

I imagine Spooner's "down train" was the train which his target was
supposed to promptly take.

B.  Not from The Universities, but from the OED:

"down, adj." "1.c. Of a train or coach: Going 'down', i.e. away from
the central or chief terminus; in Great Britain, from London. Hence
transf. Of or pertaining to down trains, as the down platform
."  Earliest quotation 1840.

C.  Questions:

C1.  Which way is "down" in England?

Answer:  Away from the center (of population, business,
transportation, learning, etc.)

C2:  Which way is "downtown"?

Answer:  Toward (or at) the central part of the city.  See OED, "downtown".


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