Geographically speaking, up is north and down is south (if that's wrong, my entire question is dumb). My friends keep saying they are doing something "down here" when they are actually talking about the neighborhood they live in, which is in fact 9 miles due north of me. They complain when I comment on the fact that they're wrong (I don't point it out that often, but sometimes it irritates me). Can someone just confirm for me that they are wrong and I am right? Thank you.

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    I've heard that for folks in the southern hemisphere, up is south and down is north and they think the other half of the world is awfully backwards for thinking otherwise. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Dec 15 '13 at 0:20
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    It's often the case that elevation and/or down-river/up-river relationships have precedence over the north/south convention. – Jim Dec 15 '13 at 1:34
  • Er, then what about "uptown" and "downtown"? And when you are in a building, how do you determine if you are going "up a hall" or "down a hall", for like, do you carry a compass with you so you don't report your activity incorrectly? :) – F.E. Dec 15 '13 at 1:49
  • @F.E. Your 'uptown / downtown' point is valid; sometimes this seems to be N / S -influenced (NY City), but in the UK, the expression 'up town' seems in some cases to be influenced by the fact that the town is more significant than the suburbs. We say 'going up to Uni' and 'going down' irrespective of the geography involved. [Your confusing witticism (?) in the second sentence just muddies the waters. Preposition (and adverb in these types of example) usage is hard enough to explain / justify without inventing new possibilities for mayhem. I'd say 'across'. As you would.] – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '13 at 7:55
  • @EdwinAshworth: So when you go the length of the hallway, from one end to the other, you say that you are going "across" the hall? -- I'm AmE, and we might say "going across the quad/yard", but as for a hall(way), the way I usually hear it is "going up/down a hall", and the use of "up" vs "down" is arbitrary. If someone said "I'm going across the hall", I'd interpret it as that the person is going across the width of the hall, like to an office right on the other side of the hallway, the width not the length. Could this be a BrE vs AmE thing? – F.E. Dec 15 '13 at 8:42

"Down South", "Up North", "Way Down upon the Swanee River", Down in Florida, up in The Yukon, down in Antarctica", etc. etc.

The precedent is there, and you are correct with regard to direction. However, "down home" is also very prevalent, and when referring to where one is (from an idiom meaning simple, comfortable, old fashioned but with good connotations).

Down here is very common (when it is one's home), perhaps due to other absorbed idiomatic phrases.

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For very long distances cardinal points are the obvious points of reference, where down is south and up is north.

But for relatively short distances it's rather features of the natural (or man-made) environment that decides what is up and down, eg. if you live uphill/downhill from the other person, or upriver/downriver from that person regardless if the river flows north or south.

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