Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 14, 2006
In Reply to: "Take the high road" posted by ESC on April 14, 2006
: : Does anyone have any ideas on the origin of the phrase "take the high road"?
: Here is information from the archives. Seems to me like we had a discussion about the difference in meaning in British and American English.
: HIGH ROAD, LOW ROAD - rational approach versus emotional appeal; sticking to the issues versus going for the jugular; Marquis of Queensberry rules versus no-holds-barred. The phrase became popular in the presidential campaign of 1948, when Republican Thomas E. Dewey selected 'the high road' and let voters draw their own conclusions as to what road President Harry Truman was trudging.Derivation: a 'high road' or 'high way' is the easy way in English usage. In London today the 'high streets' are the main traffic arteries. However the takes of low roads can sometimes make better time, as the balladeer in 'Lock Lomond' indicates: 'O ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye.'" From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).
It is asserted by some folklorists that the "low road" by which the singer of the song "Loch Lomond" expected to travel back to the Highlands was death (there is allegedly an old Highland belief that the soul of anyone who dies away from his own country will travel back to its home) which is why the song ends "me and my true love will never meet again / On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond." Naturally the soul of a dead person travels more quickly than a living person does on foot.