ENGLISCH/901: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (186) "up" or "down" (SB)


Tricky preposition

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

... Now, I was at Piccadilly circus and I wanted to ask someone how to get to Oxford Street. Then I just couldn't remember which preposition to use. Would you ask:

"Shall I go down Regent Street?"

or rather

"Shall I go up Regent Street"?

As you probably know, Regent Street links Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street.


Charles G. (Belgium)


Dear Mr G

Well, in this case I would prefer to say, "go up Regent Street".

This is for two reasons: Oxford Street is on slightly higher ground than Piccadilly Circus, in other words, Regent Street is a slight hill, so you go uphill. Also, Oxford Street is to the north of Piccadilly Circus. And now we have two of the criteria to saying "up a street": Are we going "uphill" or are we going "towards the north"?

But in this case Regent Street is not a steep hill. It is, in fact, a very slight hill that you hardly recognize. And another thing is, that people don't always have a good sense of direction.

And anyway, what about the two opposite positions that lie east and west of each other, or southwest and northeast?

So the fact is, that there are no firm rules whether we say up the street or down the street. If you really can't decide whether to say "up Regent Street" or "down Regent Street" than there is yet another possibility.

To be on the safe side you could say:

"Go along Regent Street"

instead and everybody will be quite happy. This expression contains no idea of north and south or of uphill and downhill. So if you have any more questions, uphill and down dale the English language, please feel free to ask, because that's down (or up) my alley, meaning because I am made for this job!


Miranda Gobbledygook

14 July 2011