the chalk of the downs

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sergiofreeman, Jan 16, 2012.

  1. sergiofreeman

    sergiofreeman Senior Member

    Miami Florida
    Hi There!Reading “The enigma of arrival “ by V.S. Naipaul, I didn’t understand the expression “the chalk of the downs”.Context: It was as though the chalk of the downs by which he had been surrounded all his life had affected his taste in colours.As always any help I’ll appreciate it. Many thanks in advance.
  2. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    It's easy to miss this entry in the dictionary!
    The Downs (the North Downs and South Downs) in southern England are made mostly of chalk - so the reference is to the rock.
  3. Fabulist Banned

    Annandale, Virginia, USA
    American English
    This is another example of the importance of paying attention to capitalization. "The Downs" is different from "the downs."
  4. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    The word downs can refer to rolling hills all over England, and not just refer to the North and South Downs of Sussex and Kent. Here's an example of this use:

    I accept that downs and heaths and the like need management if they are to survive. BBC Wildlife. London: Wildlife Publications Ltd, 1992.

    The light, well-drained chalk downs of Wiltshire, the Cotswolds, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire were the first areas of the country to be farmed. The challenge of smallholding. Sweeny, Sedley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

    Both examples are from the BNC. I'm a little surprised that the second example refers to chalk downs in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, because hills of this type are more usually called wolds in the northern part of England.

    Capitalisation is certainly important, but I doubt these downs would have been capitalized in the OP, because the book is set in Wilsford in Wiltshire, on Salisbury Plain, a long way from the Downs. My guess is that Naipaul is talking about his landlord Stephen Tennant.

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