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to walk up on the downs

Discussion in 'English Only' started by *cat*, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. *cat*

    *cat* Senior Member

    Slovenia
    Slovene
    Hello!

    I don't understand what doe's this mean: "to walk up on the downs". Hope somebody can help me.

    Here's the context:
    "Did you never go for walks with her?"
    "As a matter of fact we did, once. We walked up on the downs."
    (the man that asked him that question "explodes")
    "Is it a crime that I seek to drag from you? To keep the company with a pretty girl, is it not natural?"
     
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I can see how that would be confusing! A "down" is a geographical feature. You can find it as definition #4 of the noun in our WRF dictionary:

    4 down
    (usually plural) a rolling treeless highland with little soil


    It seems to be used in the plural more often than in the singular. I'm not sure I've ever heard it used in the singular, in fact, when referring to the land feature.

    "up on" could mean that the downs were higher in elevation than where the speaker was at the moment or that they are generally higher than the surrounding land.
     
  3. *cat*

    *cat* Senior Member

    Slovenia
    Slovene
    Thank you.

    But I don't get why did that answer make the other man angry. I thought that he was making fun of him (or something like that) with "We walked up on the downs".
     
  4. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't think the man's answer regarding the walk on the downs has anything to do with the other man's emotional reaction, other than perhaps the fact that he says they only went for a walk together one time. The other man may find this unbelievable and assume that information is being withheld. It's difficult to say without more context.
     
  5. *cat*

    *cat* Senior Member

    Slovenia
    Slovene
    Adding few more lines of the context:
    "Did you never go for walks with her?"
    "As a matter of fact we did, once. We walked up on the downs."
    (the man that asked him that question "explodes")
    "Is it a crime that I seek to drag from you? To keep the company with a pretty girl, is it not natural? Is it not enjoyable? Can you not be pleased with yourself about it?"
    "I don't see why."
    "At your age it is natural and right to enjoy the company of girls."
    "I don't know many girls."
    "You should be ashamed of that, not smug!"

    Doe's it help?
     
  6. Lis48

    Lis48 Senior Member

    York, England
    English - British
    If the quote is from a BE context, "the Downs" would always refer to the chalk hills of Sussex. Though it should have a capital D, I have seen it referred to without one. You might say for example, "Have you ever been up on the Downs?" The English sounds old fashioned in your quote and not current so walking up on the Downs several years ago would have been very much a special expedition requiring a carriage and picnic. The listener explodes because he feels the man should be going out on short walks more often to get to know the girl. Then again, if it is a US context, I am wrong.
     
  7. Teafrog

    Teafrog Senior Member

    London
    UK English (& rusty French…)
    I fully agree, and I can see how it can be very confusing for you. These links will explain better what our Downs are, here and here (for North Downs; there is also a "South Downs" ;)).
    The people could have been in a seaside village, say, so the Downs would have been much higher in altitude, hence the "going up" part of the sentence.
     
  8. *cat*

    *cat* Senior Member

    Slovenia
    Slovene
    Thank you very much!
    Your Downs are really beautiful! ;)
     
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm not sure "the Downs" always means those in Sussex, Lis: as Teafrog's Wiki links indicate, there are other "Downs"...

    *Cat*: this is Poirot again, isn't it?:D
     
  10. *cat*

    *cat* Senior Member

    Slovenia
    Slovene
    Monsieur Hercule Poirot. Ah [FONT=&quot]Bon Dieu[/FONT]... :rolleyes: :)
     
  11. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
  12. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    No, that picture is definitely not of downs. This is obvious because downs are hills made of chalk, which is white, and the rocky outcrop in the picture is not white. In addition, the hills in the picture are too irregular and not undulating like the Downs; also the vegetation is not green and grassy enough. The picture looks more like Dartmoor to me - that area is made of much harder rock. If you look up "South Downs" (and "Dartmoor") on Google Images you will find lots of pictures.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2013
  13. Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    No. The answer is actually in the dictionary: downs
     
  14. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you, se16teddy and Andygc~~ I'm not a hiker kind of person and have flushed my geographical knowledge learned from secondary school down the toilet , so I'm not even sure if there's low chalk hills in my city, let alone "downs".
     
  15. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't think "Downs" is used to describe any place outside of England, is it? I've only heard it used to refer to a specific area in England. France has similar geographic features but I've never heard anyone speak of "the Downs of France".
     
  16. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    ... and as well as the various other Downs mentioned in Teafrog's links, there are also The Downs in Bristol — neither Sussex nor chalk :p. (They're a high area of limestone land bordering the Avon Gorge).

    A Bristolian, hearing you say "We walked up on the Downs", wouldn't for one minute think of the Sussex Downs: you'd have to say "the Sussex Downs", 'the North Downs", "the South Downs", or whatever. Unlike the downs in the South-East, the Downs in Bristol have no attributive modifier: they're just "The Downs" (although they're composed of two areas: Clifton Down and Durdham Down).

    But whatever the geology, or the county, the answer to *cat*'s question is still the same. Downs are higher than the surrounding land, so being "up on the Downs" is quite normal.

    Ws:)
     
  17. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    :thumbsup: I'd call those moors or (more likely) fells. Fells tend to be more upsy-downsy* than moors.

    *Not a technical term.
     
  18. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Not only are fells more upsy-downsy (©ewie), but (fell being a word that comes from Old Norse) they're called that only north of a line through somewhere about Derby. Whereas downs (definitely more downsy-upsy) are mostly concentrated well south of that line (if you ignore a few such as Linton Downs, near Kelso!).

    Ws:)
     
  19. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    :thumbsup: Oh yes, fells are a lot more upsy than downs. Moors are about halfway up (or possibly down) the Upsy-downsy Scale (also ©:D)
     

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