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"Gone West/Gone South"

I was watching this documentary, that I believe is British, and the narrater said "And the relationship went west."

Now, here in the states it's "Went South," but I couldn't tell you why. I'm not sure whether or not I should be insulted that the British version is "Went West," but the difference is odd. I never thought "Went South" was a geographic thing. I thought it meant, basically "downhill" so unless the Brits are talking about something to do with the rotation of the Earth, West has almost gotta mean America.

Also, I have a hard time believing the two arose independantly of each other. Is the American "Went South" just our version of "Went West?" Or perhaps v.v.?
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
22.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
Oh yeah, and your post doesn't address mine at all. 19.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
I've never heard the "went west" variation; I always figured "south" was alluding to a downwards direction, so what "west" would mean is a bit of a puzzle.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 8th, 2005
Well, I did manage to find some discussion about this. Seems they don't know either.

http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk/Phrases_and_Sayings/Question77064.html

Surely we're smarter than TheAnswerBank.Co.UK.

Out of the handful of matches for "gone south" "gone west" in Google, this was the only one that tackled this question at all. The rest were just coincidental uses of both sets of words.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
Well according to The Answer Bank dot Co dot UK, west _could_ either be Amsterdam, or the direction of the setting sun.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
"...direction of the setting sun"

So it's "gone west" is the equivalent of putting it where the sun doesn't shine? :)
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 8th, 2005
Perhaps West is used to connote sunset? Reaching the end? On par with the negative use of 'South', IMO.
Permalink KayJay 
August 8th, 2005
Didn't King Arthur go west when he died?

Certainly Galadriel said, when she 'passed the test', that she would "diminish, and go into the west".
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 8th, 2005
Arthur went to the land of "West over the Sea." At least in the version I'm familar with.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
'Went West', is the RAF equivalent of 'buying the farm' so I think its alluding to the sun going down in the west, the Arthurian references would have the same kind of intent.
Permalink Simon Lucy 
August 8th, 2005
I found this:
": North American pilots also have a variation on this expression --- it's 'gone west' When we have a meeting of pilots we will often start the meeting with a toast to those of us who have "gone west". We face the west and drink to those who have died. West, in this case, refers to the place the sun sets -- extinguishes -- the metaphor is clear"

Also
'Go West was originally an Elizabethan expression meaning "to die" or, like the sun, "to disappear into an unknown abyss." '

Go South appears to be the newer one.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
August 8th, 2005
Re: Lord of the Rings -- the "West" was the direction of the original home of the Elves, also known as the Gray Havens, I believe. Thus, when the Elves left middle-earth, they went West back to their original home.

"The relationship went south" meaning things got bad, is the general term, I believe. Somebody British picking 'west', as in into the sea, would makes sense, but also sounds like an evolution of the original term.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 8th, 2005
http://tinyurl.com/7luj5
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 8th, 2005
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (pick one up, it will enhance your fireside woolgathering) dicat:

To go west. Of persons, to die; of things, to be lost, rendered useless or unattainable, as, "My promotion has gone west" ... cf setting sun.

Now "gone Troppo" is quite different. Bananas, doolally, barking all apply and note that this generally happens in our Deep North.
Permalink trollop 
August 8th, 2005
Tolkein, in all likelihood, made their home to the west deliberately. He was a linguist and studied Nordic & Celtic myths (the Sagas), among others.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
> the original home of the Elves, also known as the Gray Havens

No, the Havens were the harbour on the western shore of Middle Earth, where they embarked on their voyage to the West.

I mentioned Galadriel because I thought that Tolkein might have had some other well-known precedent -- like "Lyonesse" -- for choosing "West": it's said that his story-telling is informed his knowing a number of Old English, Icelandic, Norse, etc. tales.

The land of Númenor is called "Westernesse" (so, "Lyonesse" ...).
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 8th, 2005
Middle Earth, being Europe (or England expanded to fit all of Europe... or more precisely, Tolkein's childhood town expanded to fit all of europe) after all, must have it's ocean to the West.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
> RAF ... alluding to the sun going down in the west

I would have understood the RAF's allusion as being Arthurian: fallen warriors, defenders of Britain ... perhaps too whose mortal remains are beyond our reach, unburied.
Permalink Christopher Wells 
August 8th, 2005
Are there any asian myths/phrases that involve the eastern sea?
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
Most of these cultures faced the Atlantic from a western coast (you don't see the sun going down over the water living on an eastern coast).

For instance in Sydney you had to wait until sunrise for the green flash. It was a hard ask to stay sufficiently awake and focussed to take in anything at all.
Permalink trollop 
August 8th, 2005
From http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=west&searchmode=phrase

---------
go west

19c. British idiom for "die, be killed" (popularized during World War I), "probably from thieves' slang, wherein to go west meant to go to Tyburn, hence to be hanged, though the phrase has indubitably been influenced by the setting of the sun in the west." [Partridge]
---------

Interesting. Also of note is the Sanskrit influence. No wonder Go West and Go South mean the same.
Permalink KayJay 
August 8th, 2005
West etc. etc. "perhaps an enlarged form of base *we- 'to go down' (cf. Skt. avah 'downward'), and thus lit. 'direction in which the sun sets.'"

Sure, if West can also mean Downward, then Go South can have a similar meaning today.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
The claim that "Going West" means "Going to Amsterdam" in the Netherlands is BS.
I've never heard of it.
(Not exactly scientific proof, but hey, I am dutch)
Permalink Geert-Jan Thomas 
August 8th, 2005
"The claim that "Going West" means "Going to Amsterdam" in the Netherlands is BS."

Yeah, yeah, and I'm a Dutchman...
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 8th, 2005
18.
Permalink Geert-Jan Thomas 
August 8th, 2005
12.
Permalink Mat Hall 
August 8th, 2005
I can't believe nobody got the most obvious reference. Especially for Britain, a country whose intellectual elite (which would be prone to using the term "to go west" as opposed to "sod off") is historically extremely well versed in ancient civilizations.

The west bank of the Nile was the land of the dead. The east was cultivated, with fertile soil, and that was where the people lived. The west, a desert, was where the pharaohs went to die. So, to go west = to die.
Permalink Flasher T 
August 8th, 2005
Well yeah, duh!

You fucking apricots.
Permalink muppet 
August 8th, 2005
The fertile west bank of the nile ---- obvious! 18! 19! 19!
Permalink FaLing@Orbiz.ch 
August 8th, 2005
The etymology of go south is that it started on wall street. When the share price plummeted, the drawn line went downwards, which was 'south' in the map direction.

In the US, the 'go west' idiom means to 'seek greater opportunity and freedom', as in 'go west young man'.

The English 'go west' idiom is a totally separate thing from either of these.
Permalink Scott 
August 8th, 2005
Personally, I like the migratory bird "gone south" derivation. When a relationship has gone south, it's like it has left for the winter.
Permalink AllanL5 
August 8th, 2005
Maybe the Brits like certain "acts" performed on their left arm. Strange people, them.
Permalink  
August 8th, 2005
"Contrast that with go south, which is first recorded in the 1970s, though it was uncommon until the beginning of the 1990s, after which it experienced explosive growth."

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sou1.htm

I'm going to guess Scott found this via Google, but wanted to sound smart so he posted a summary without a citation.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
I was restating Kyralessa's link, which I assumed everyone read:

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20010427
Permalink Scott 
August 8th, 2005
The go west was my own insight. I guess people aren't allowed to have their own thoughts on this board without being accused of plagarism, huh?
Permalink Scott 
August 8th, 2005
Not if the thoughts make any sense.
Permalink Jeff Barton 
August 8th, 2005
It's just that you're the first to use the terms "Go South" and "Go West" and your thoughts match exactly the first hit in Google for those terms.
Permalink MarkTAW 
August 8th, 2005
Well I did not see that page nor any other page that mentioned go west. The only article I read prior to posting was the one Kyralessa posted, which made the stock market thing clear, but I thought maybe that had been overlooked. I added the go west think because the original poster was talking about british stuff and every one in the US knows that Go West means Go West Young Man, but I figured it must not be common in Britain since it hadn't been mentioned.

Probably just about any obvious thought is covered on a page accessible by google somewhere.

Let's see: "I like maple donuts."

Yep, that gave me 4 hits! So, did I really come up with the insight about maple donuts, or did I copy that idea from googling for it first?
Permalink Scott 
August 8th, 2005
okay, my bad.
Permalink marktaw (on my girlfriend's treo) 
August 8th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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