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Gone south -- Pilots go west

Posted by Ward Fredericks on November 26, 2003

In Reply to: Gone south posted by James Briggs on November 25, 2003

: : : : : : : : Can someone help? I need to know the origin and meaning of the phrase "went South on me." Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.

: : : : : : : My understanding of the phrase is, if a project has gone south, it's "in the toilet," "gone bust," etc.

: : : : : : From Merriam-Webster online (meaning No. 2):

: : : : : : Main Entry: 1south
: : : : : : Pronunciation: 'sauth
: : : : : : Function: adverb
: : : : : : Etymology: Middle English, from Old English suth; akin to Old High German sund- south and probably to Old English sunne sun
: : : : : : Date: before 12th century
: : : : : : 1 : to, toward, or in the south
: : : : : : 2 : into a state of decline or ruin. Causes the sluggish economy to go south -- G. F. Will.

: : : : : go south (also head south, take a turn south) 1 v phr by 1940s To disappear; fal by or as if by vanishing.... 2 v phr by 1925 To abscond with money, loot, etc. ... 3 v phr underworld by 1950 To cheat, esp to cheat at cards.... 4 v phr by 1980s To lessen; diminish.... [probably fr the notion of disappearing _south of the border_, to escape legal pursuit and responsibility; probably reinforced by the widespread belief that the soul after death journeys to the south, attested in American Colonial writing fr the middle 1770s; _GTT_, "Gone to Texas, absconded," is found by 1839]
: : : : : From _Dictionary of American Slang, Third Edition_ by Robert L. Chapman
: : : : : ----------
: : : : : The market then rallies, falls back to test its low -- and just keeps ?heading South,? as they say on the Street. (_Business Week_, Sept 21,1974)
: : : : : Rosy view of VCR impact was somewhat contradicted during dinner talk by Frank Biondi, exec. vp of Coca-Cola's Entertainment Business Sector and ex-chmn. of HBO. In other countries, when VCR penetration hits 30%, ?theatrical attendance starts to go south and very quickly,? Biondi said. (_Communications Daily_, Feb 1985)
: : : : : A PC clone may go south, and you're left with a pile of junk that is not supported by anyone. (_InfoWorld_, Dec 1990).
: : : : : Those who get their economic news from television may come away with the impression that the economy and the stock market are two sides of the same coin. If the market is heading south, then the economy must be, too. But it's not true. (Alan S. Blinder, "Stocks Are Only Part of the Story," _New York Times_, July 21, 2002)

: : : : What makes the metaphor work vividly is that our orientation to maps makes us think of South as Down.

: : : ...and I suspect that south is down because the first makers of world maps lived in the Northern Hemisphere. A subtle bit of chauvinism in action.

: : So if "Lord of the Rings" had tanked, would Peter Jackson have described it as "headed north"? (Joking.)

: I've read that this is due to the downward slope of a badly performing stock or profit return as shown on a performance graph. The downward slope is reckoned to be similar to the southerly direction on a map, ie at the bottom. It doesn't represent any supposed worse aspect of the world 'down south', just the direction.

: 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.