Friday, September 11, 2015

Going South Does Not Have To Be Bad

This week as my older daughter was starting to spiral into a meltdown, I said something about getting things back under control before it all "goes South." I hadn't intended to confuse her, but in that moment it actually had the unintended (but good) outcome of snapping her out of her funk. I have mentioned in earlier posts that sometimes a little misdirection helps during a verbal battle with the kids. She stopped her meltdown and shifted her attention and curiosity towards trying to understand what a direction had to do with her attitude. I couldn't answer her question other than to say it's just an expression we sometimes I Googled it and gathered some information - primarily from

I learned that "going South" is primarily an American expression. One site I visited mentioned a possible post Civil War connotation in referencing things in the South be bad, negative and/or "not the situation you want to be in." A more commonly accepted origin is from sales performance charts. Typically on a performance chart or graph, up is positive and down is negative. If that chart was a map on the wall, up/positive would be North and down/negative would be South.

Although I found multiple sites saying you won't hear the opposite "North being positive or more" phrase, I have to disagree. I've heard people use phrases like how something will cost "North of $1000." I've even hear statements like expecting the the casualty count following a string of tornadoes to be somewhere "North of 20 casualties." In that case, the word North is positive in numbers, but negative in outcome.

I think it all comes down to perspective. I recently learned that in London the term "going West" is used negatively like America's "going South". Apparently in London, it was a westward walk from the prison to the gallows. That leaves you with a pretty clear cut negative thought in regards to going West. In contrast, going West has a positive connotation in America stemming from the westward move by early American settlers. That got me thinking about the different perceptions we may have of going South (or North) today.

As a Texan living in Minnesota, going South to me is a good thing. It means going home. To many northerners, going South may be a positive idea of wintering or retiring in the warmer and sunnier climate of the South.

Depending on your perspective, the same could be said about going North. Growing up in Texas, the majority of my relatives lived in Wisconsin. That meant that going up North meant getting to see my extended family. I know a number of people who enjoy going up North to Canada for fishing, camping and canoeing. That leads me to a very distinct difference of North and South perceptions that is quite dependent on where you live - hunting.

Living in Southern Minnesota, I often hear friends talk about going up North to go hunting. My basic understanding of this is that the rifle zones are up North. I would assume the terrain and deer population also has something to do with it. My experience was the exact opposite when I lived in North Texas. All the major properties for deer leases were down in South Texas. Because of that, everyone headed South for hunting season.

I suppose I could go on and on with examples of North vs. South and how no two perspectives are identical, but that would probably just rile up my readers. The moral of the story today is that if you have enough background information on the phrases you use, you will be able to satisfy the curiosity of a six year old. More importantly than that, by the time I finished explaining all this to my "borderline meltdown" daughter, she was so bored and tired that she couldn't put up much of a fight anymore. I will leave you with those words and let you drift off to sleep. Until next time....