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If things went south we better have some plan...

Is went south a racial term or it's okay to use it in normal conversation to refer if things went wrong?

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marked as duplicate by choster, Janus Bahs Jacquet, FumbleFingers, RegDwigнt Jan 7 '14 at 21:44

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to the OED, this meaning of ‘south’ comes originally from stock markets.

South on a map is obviously down at the bottom, and when stocks go downwards, towards the ‘south’, they devaluate; hence the expression ‘go south’.

There is no element whatsoever of it being a racial term. I can’t even imagine how ‘south’ would be racially loaded at all—if anything, ‘southern’ (in American English) is a culturally loaded term. Hardly a racially loaded one.

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AmE here, and you're correct, no racial or cultural overtones to the term, going South. It's racially/culturally equivalent to "going to hell in a hand-basket, or "up s*** creek (usually without a paddle)." – medica Jan 7 '14 at 21:31

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