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Roger Franke
06 July 2005, 10:54 AM
In an article that I'm working on about my grandfather I use the phrase "up the Weser River to Bremen and 57 days on the ocean." Since the Weser River flows north to Bremen, I'm wondering if in fact it should read "down the Weser River to Bremen?" Or is this usage similar to going uptown or downtown, depending on an individual's own perspective. Also we commonly say "down South and up North." When talking about rivers, how accurate are we to be when it relates to going with the stream or against the stream, even if the stream flows in a northerly direction (which is usually considered "up")? Roger Franke

vineviz
06 July 2005, 11:27 AM
In an article that I'm working on about my grandfather I use the phrase "up the Weser River to Bremen and 57 days on the ocean." Since the Weser River flows north to Bremen, I'm wondering if in fact it should read "down the Weser River to Bremen?" Or is this usage similar to going uptown or downtown, depending on an individual's own perspective. Also we commonly say "down South and up North." When talking about rivers, how accurate are we to be when it relates to going with the stream or against the stream, even if the stream flows in a northerly direction (which is usually considered "up")? Roger FrankeI'm not a linguist, but "up the river" to me always means toward the source (e.g. the mountains) and against the flow and "down the river" means toward the destination (e.g. lake or ocean) and with the flow.

But I could be wrong.

Mary Arthur
06 July 2005, 12:14 PM
I'm not a linguist, but "up the river" to me always means toward the source (e.g. the mountains) and against the flow and "down the river" means toward the destination (e.g. lake or ocean) and with the flow...It has been my experience that it is not even local usuage but individual usage, so, to be clear, I would say "north on the Weser to Bremen", then explain how they got to the North Sea and how long it took to reach ?. and include a map if at all possible.

AE Palmer
06 July 2005, 08:39 PM
In an article that I'm working on about my grandfather I use the phrase "up the Weser River to Bremen and 57 days on the ocean." Since the Weser River flows north to Bremen, I'm wondering if in fact it should read "down the Weser River to Bremen?" Or is this usage similar to going uptown or downtown, depending on an individual's own perspective. Also we commonly say "down South and up North." When talking about rivers, how accurate are we to be when it relates to going with the stream or against the stream, even if the stream flows in a northerly direction (which is usually considered "up")? Roger Franke

Cardinal directions (N,S,E,W) have nothing to do with this problem. The use of UP vs. DOWN is simply a matter of water flow

Janet Binkley
06 July 2005, 11:27 PM
I will be really relieved if all genealogy buffs say"up" and "down" rivers according to the way the water flows -- as I think we all do when we're standing on our local streams and see the water moving. Since I have lived in Germany and got adjusted to the fact most of their major rivers (except the Danube) end up flowing northward to the North Sea and the Baltic, it always gives me a shock when Americans talk about emigrants traveling "up" the Rhine to a North Sea port.

martha
07 July 2005, 02:40 AM
In an article that I'm working on about my grandfather I use the phrase "up the Weser River to Bremen and 57 days on the ocean." Since the Weser River flows north to Bremen, I'm wondering if in fact it should read "down the Weser River to Bremen?" Or is this usage similar to going uptown or downtown, depending on an individual's own perspective. Also we commonly say "down South and up North." When talking about rivers, how accurate are we to be when it relates to going with the stream or against the stream, even if the stream flows in a northerly direction (which is usually considered "up")? Roger Franke

Roger, since the purpose of language is to impart knowledge in an unequivocal way, maybe it would be best if you were just to use concrete directions such as your grandfather "sailed northward on the Weser River to Bremen..." etc.

Martha

STEVE
08 July 2005, 01:22 AM
Hi Roger,

Vineviz has the right scoop for you. "Up the river" is "against the flow". "Down the river" is "with the flow". Nothing very ambiguous about that. Rivers tend to be twisty little devils so refering to the flow was a standard way of refering to direction. My next-door neighbor at one time was a retired Mississippi River pilot who loved to talk about the old days, and I loved to listen. He and the many friends who visited had no trouble understanding "up" and "down" the river.

Martha certainly makes a good point about being unequiviocal. I'd probably keep the "nautical" terms for their flavor and blend them with Martha's practical good sense.

STEVE

vineviz
08 July 2005, 08:54 AM
Roger, since the purpose of language is to impart knowledge in an unequivocal way, maybe it would be best if you were just to use concrete directions such as your grandfather "sailed northward on the Weser River to Bremen..." etc.Of course, "imparting knowledge in an unequivocal way" isn't the PURPOSE of language. It is certainly one USE of language, but not the only one.

For example, you've read works by William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Tom Stoppard, & Mark Twain for sure. Nothing unequivocal about their work, but they certainly use language well.

Urs Geiser
08 July 2005, 06:26 PM
Vineviz has the right scoop for you. "Up the river" is "against the flow". "Down the river" is "with the flow". Nothing very ambiguous about that. Rivers tend to be twisty little devils so refering to the flow was a standard way of refering to direction. My next-door neighbor at one time was a retired Mississippi River pilot who loved to talk about the old days, and I loved to listen. He and the many friends who visited had no trouble understanding "up" and "down" the river.The Mississippi River is not the problem, because it flows toward the south, thus "down river" is down on the map and vice versa. It's the NORTH-flowing rivers that people seem to be confused about (even though in my opinion the terms are clearly defined in the sense stated by several posters including the one quoted above), because they're used to defining "up" and "down" with respect to standard maps. This was the case with the original poster, who referred to the Weser in Germany.

Frank Mitchell
09 July 2005, 03:34 AM
In an article that I'm working on about my grandfather I use the phrase "up the Weser River to Bremen and 57 days on the ocean." Since the Weser River flows north to Bremen, I'm wondering if in fact it should read "down the Weser River to Bremen?" Or is this usage similar to going uptown or downtown, depending on an individual's own perspective. Also we commonly say "down South and up North." When talking about rivers, how accurate are we to be when it relates to going with the stream or against the stream, even if the stream flows in a northerly direction (which is usually considered "up")?IMO travelling up or down river has nothing to do with north or south. Up river is upstream and down river is downstream.

Suppose your grandfather was on a river that generally flows east to west - would he be travelling sideways stream? 8^)

Good luck with the article!

Roger Franke
12 July 2005, 11:13 AM
Thanks to everyone who replied to my question on river terminology. I now have a much better idea of where I'm headed. In fact I'm considering applying for a captain's license to operate a river boat on the Mississippi now that my sense of direction has been sharpened. But I'll stay away from the Weser for the time being yet since it has the audacity to go against the natural order of things by flowing uphill in a northerly direction. Seriously, many thanks for the viewpoints expressed. They have been very helpful. Roger

AlanDrake
12 July 2005, 12:49 PM
We often confuse things and make associations, particularly geography and the cardinal points. Did you know that before the 19th Century and the intrusion of European thought, the Chinese placed "North" at the bottom of their maps? In essence they turned the world upside down

Donald A. Sage
12 July 2005, 10:35 PM
Thanks to everyone who replied to my question on river terminology. I now have a much better idea of where I'm headed. In fact I'm considering applying for a captain's license to operate a river boat on the Mississippi now that my sense of direction has been sharpened. But I'll stay away from the Weser for the time being yet since it has the audacity to go against the natural order of things by flowing uphill in a northerly direction. Seriously, many thanks for the viewpoints expressed. They have been very helpful. Roger

Roger --- I have been saving this "riddle" to insert when all has been said and done: Speaking of Up and Down which way do the Great Lakes flow: If you were at Duluth MN. would you be sailing down the lake to the St. Lawrence Sea Way and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean or would you be sailing up the lake?--Don Sage.

George
13 July 2005, 08:02 PM
Roger --- I have been saving this "riddle" to insert when all has been said and done: Speaking of Up and Down which way do the Great Lakes flow: If you were at Duluth MN. would you be sailing down the lake to the St. Lawrence Sea Way and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean or would you be sailing up the lake?I live in Buffalo, on Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. When lake traffic was heavier, the newspapers printed a listing of ships that read like this, for example:

Detroit: [ship name], downbound, ore, 2:30 pm; [ship name], upbound, stone, 5:15pm.....

Downbound meant toward Buffalo and the ocean; upbound meant toward Lake Huron and Duluth.

Donald A. Sage
14 July 2005, 01:55 AM
I live in Buffalo, on Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. When lake traffic was heavier, the newspapers printed a listing of ships that read like this, for example:
Detroit: [ship name], downbound, ore, 2:30 pm; [ship name], upbound, stone, 5:15pm.....
Downbound meant toward Buffalo and the ocean; upbound meant toward Lake Huron and Duluth.We use to have a lake cabin on Lake Superior and of course Duluth was a favorite spot and you are right, for all the iron ore, wheat, and pack freighters would be sailing down the lake to their destinations.

monorris
14 July 2005, 01:43 PM
The direction of flow of the water is, indeed, the correct definition of up- or down- river: hence upstream and downstream.

An interesting corollary is the idea of "left bank" and "right bank". The area of Paris known as "rive gauche" -- translates as left bank -- is an example. The side is always relative to the direction of flow of the water. Rive gauche is therefore on the southern side of the river Seine.

Regards to all.

Bob Emnett
16 July 2005, 11:19 PM
Hmmm! This has been a very interesting discussion, but ...

... it seems to me that when I was young being sent "up the river" meant one was being incarcerated! I think the expression originally had something to do with the direction of Sing Sing from New York City.

Cora Martin
18 July 2005, 07:54 PM
May I insert a bit of Kansas Cowboy wisdom? "Never drink down stream from the herd."

Cora Martin

STEVE
18 July 2005, 10:52 PM
Hmmm! This has been a very interesting discussion, but ...

... it seems to me that when I was young being sent "up the river" meant one was being incarcerated! I think the expression originally had something to do with the direction of Sing Sing from New York City.


I was told the meaning "going to prison" came from the Civil War when all the Southern prisoners were sent up the river to some awful place in Illinois that was on the Mississippi River. Can't remember the name of the prison right now but it seems like "Rock Island" was involved.

STEVE