Roll up the sidewalks

lablady

Senior Member
English - USA
Hello all,

As I described a recent trip to a very small town, I said to a friend, "There's not much to do at night there, they roll up the sidewalks at 5 pm."

I am certain the phrase "roll up the sidewalks" is used frequently in the US to describe a place where everything is closed down and the area is so deserted that the sidewalks, being unneeded, could be put away for the night. :D I think it's been around as long as sidewalks have been around - I vaguely remember my grandmother using it.

My curiosity has led me to a twofold question:
Firstly, is this phrase unique to AE? Search engines have not returned anything but US references.

Secondly, does anyone know how the phrase originated? My favorite word-origin sites have been no help. Maybe someone with access to an OED has a little insight. :cool:
 
  • panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The expression, in context, is colourful and understandable.
    The OED is no help at all, sorry.
    It would not be used in BE because we don't have sidewalks :)
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    We call them "pavements" (although I used to hear the pavement called "the courseway" [pron. "coursey"] by old people in my youth). "Roll up the pavements" appears only a handful of times on Google, and amusing as it is, I've never heard it said. I imagine those few instances were translated from US English.
     

    lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    That explains why I could only find US references in my searches.

    If I used "pavement" (not plural) over here, it would be assumed I was speaking about the road and not the sidewalk. However, if a town is so deserted that not even the cars would be there, perhaps "rolling up the pavement" could work. Maybe I'll start a trend. :D

    Thanks Panj and MM for the insight.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's a footpath here.
    I'm happy to lead the "They roll up the footpath at 5 o'clock," initiative, Belfast branch.
    Trouble is, Belfast is such a vibrant city that it would be 5am I'd be talking about.
    (Sponsored by the NI Tourist Board :))
     

    dodin

    New Member
    Bilingual-French & Am. English
    I believe that at one time in the small towns of the US the roads were muddy. To keep people from dragging the dirt & mud into shops, they laid down mats or planks in front of the entrances. These became known as side walks. When the shop closed they 'rolled up' or took in their side walk or mats, planks, etc. I heard this many (about 60) years ago. Don't know how much truth is in it, but it makes sense.
     

    Richard Kenny

    New Member
    English
    Hello all,

    As I described a recent trip to a very small town, I said to a friend, "There's not much to do at night there, they roll up the sidewalks at 5 pm."

    I am certain the phrase "roll up the sidewalks" is used frequently in the US to describe a place where everything is closed down and the area is so deserted that the sidewalks, being unneeded, could be put away for the night. :D I think it's been around as long as sidewalks have been around - I vaguely remember my grandmother using it.

    My curiosity has led me to a twofold question:
    Firstly, is this phrase unique to AE? Search engines have not returned anything but US references.

    Secondly, does anyone know how the phrase originated? My favorite word-origin sites have been no help. Maybe someone with access to an OED has a little insight. :cool:
    Alantic City NJ history has it as :
    The end of the train line was AC and there was nothing there at the time so people built a portable boardwalk (side walk) on the beach. Each night sidewalk was " rolled up" to keep from being washed out to sea and reused again when the train returned.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top