"down" the east coast

  • badgrammar

    Senior Member
    American English
    Theyr'e pretty much the same, maybe down implies that it was along a large portion of the east coast that the fighting took place, whereas along could simply imply the fighting was in one particular spot, on the east coast.
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I don't think we know enough to be sure. A possible explanation is that the fighting started generally in the northern part of the continent, and then spread south. Isn't 1754 the start of the Seven Years' War/French and Indian War (BE-CE/AE)? If the fighting started in or around Quebec, it would then spread "down" the east coast into the British colonies that became the U.S. in 1776.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thanks for the wonderful answers, my heart's friends!

    Can the opposite be said, like "the rumor spread from LA to San Francisco, up the West Coast."?
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    If we have already mentioned the stretch from LA to SF I would have said 'and on up the west coast', meaning extending further along the coast toward the north.
     

    Kevman

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Can the opposite be said, like "the rumor spread from LA to San Francisco, up the West Coast."?
    I would say: "the rumor spread up the West Coast from LA to San Francisco," but that may just be a stylistic preference.

    Just to clarify: "...San Francisco and up the West Coast" and "...San Francisco and on up the West Coast" both mean that the rumor reached San Francisco and continued to spread north.
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    There is an odd twist to this discussion. On the east coast of the USA, in New England in the 1750's 'down' meant North. The term referred to the direction that the wind was blowing. Boston to Canada was down wind and sailing down the East coast meant sailing North.
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    There is an odd twist to this discussion. On the east coast of the USA, in New England in the 1750's 'down' meant North. The term referred to the direction that the wind was blowing. Boston to Canada was down wind and sailing down the East coast meant sailing North.

    Sorry, :) languageGuy, but I've never heard of down's meaning north. The usual phrase is "down east", which according to this source, has a basis like that you describe. Maybe this is an evolution of the term as you understand it, or maybe there used to be two different meanings for "down" and direction?

    Edit: It belatedly occurs to me that languageGuy's point, in conjunction with "down east" as a common usage (at least today), does raise the possibility that "down" in the text means "towards the coast" here, not towards the south. cheshire, do you have any idea of whether the author of your sentence is a New Englander?
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    Well, if you live in New England and are of a certain age, down still means north. My grandfather (born and raised in Maine) still uses the word to mean north, and it drives me crazy. Whether he says 'down east' or 'down the east coast,' he means north.

    The year is right for this type of usage, but, as Novice has said, more information is needed about the author to determine if this is the intended meaning.
     

    cj427

    Senior Member
    On a related note, many people say "out west" to refer to the West Coast, and "back east" to refer to the East Coast. A weird linguistic memory of westward expansion...
     

    andrew0991

    New Member
    USA- English + Cantonese + French + Spanish + Italian
    If this was found in a textbook, I think you better be cautious using it. "Down the East coast" does mean somewhat like "along", but it's used more for common speech and other common activities - certainly not something of scholar.
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    There is an Amtrak train that runs from Boston to Portland and up the coast of Maine called the "Downeaster," and I think this is related to what languageGuy is saying. Downeast in this context means northeast, since that is the direction you head from Boston up to Maine, where I used to live.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I have always understood "down east" to mean Maine, from the point of view of the rest of New England.

    In my area, near the continental headwaters, "down" is strictly a matter of altitude. But newcomers do say they live "down the Bitterroot," meaning in that valley that lies to the south of town. Hopefully they'll get their bearings, as the river runs northward on its way downstream.
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    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I have always understood "down east" to mean Maine, from the point of view of the rest of New England.

    .

    Down East is a coastal region in Maine, north of Midcoast, and south of Aroostook County. It's really nice when the tourists return home.

    During the French and Indian or Seven Years War, starting in 1754, there was lots of unpleasantness in the Down East region, as Massachusetts declared war on the Wabanaki tribe, driving most of its members east and into Canada.

    I have no idea if "down the east coast" refers to this fighting.

    More context, as always, would be a help.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you everybody:cool:
    I'm sorry, I should have quoted a little longer from the text. I quoted it from an elementary school history textbook of the US. I borrowed it from my nearby library, and have already returned it. It belongs to another city library and had been sent to my nearby library. If I borrow it again, it is going to take some time to reach me. As it is a school textbook for US children, I think the "down" is an ordinary meaning; that excludes the meaning "toward Maine," right?
    That leaves us the rest three meanings:

    (1) along (as andrew said it),
    (2) a large proportion of the east coast, more distance than just "along (badgrammar),
    (3) from north to south (Old Novice and others)

    I enjoyed your explanations and comments so far, but I have a feeling it's going to be even more interesting discussion.:thumbsup:
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    Thank you everybody:cool:
    I'm sorry, I should have quoted a little longer from the text. I quoted it from an elementary school history textbook of the US. I borrowed it from my nearby library, and have already returned it. It belongs to another city library and had been sent to my nearby library. If I borrow it again, it is going to take some time to reach me. As it is a school textbook for US children, I think the "down" is an ordinary meaning; that excludes the meaning "toward Maine," right?
    That leaves us the rest three meanings:

    (1) along (as andrew said it),
    (2) a large proportion of the east coast, more distance than just "along (badgrammar),
    (3) from north to south (Old Novice and others)

    I enjoyed your explanations and comments so far, but I have a feeling it's going to be even more interesting discussion.:thumbsup:

    I think it's quite clear that this phrase has nothing to do with the "down = north" mixup. It's pretty clear it's quotes from a history book of some sort, and they wouldn't use local terms like that. This phrase can mean only two things:

    Fighting broke out down the east coast (from north to south). I'm giving this one the 90% :tick:

    Fighting broke out (up and) down the east coast. This one gets a 10% :tick: because it's not impossible for a textbook writer to fumble a phrase like that.
     
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