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As a native Midwesterner, I was very puzzled to hear my wife (who is from northern New Jersey) use that idiom. I understand what it means, and as far as I can remember I understood what it meant from the beginning; but I thought that my wife's rapid speech was eliding the "to".

My usual sources for etymology (Merriam-Webster.com and Etymonline.com) are designed for word etymology, not phrase etymology, and I don't see (after some search) a question here, so I'll now put the question:

What is the origin and history of the New Jersey idiom "down the shore", used to mean "in the area along the southeastern coast of New Jersey?"

Note The related question, here, correctly identifies the expression as being a local idiom, but doesn't address the question of where the expression came from (For example, was there a local dialect which used "down the" to mean "in the direction of"? If so, by whom was it spoken? Where? Does it survive in any other expressions? Is it at all related to the northern New Jersey accent?) I'm specifically looking for historical origins, which are not addressed in the previous question.

  • Related:english.stackexchange.com/questions/63842/… – user66974 Jul 12 '14 at 15:20
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    That's pretty standard BrE. We go down the whatever or up the whatever everywhere. You can go up the town for the sole purpose of going down the pub. You only need a degree of directionality if you are going somewhere distant like going up north, or down to Brighton. Anything in an east or west direction doesn't have the distinction (the UK is not very wide) although if you were going to the west end of London you would say I'm going up West, even if you have to travel south and east to get there. The east end is almost always down, down the East end no matter where from. – Frank Jul 12 '14 at 18:16
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    I lived in (southern) New Jersey for 2 years in the 70s and don't ever recall hearing "down the shore" – Hot Licks Apr 25 '15 at 18:08
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    Because the shore is in south Jersey and most people who go there during the summer have to go down to get there. Since the fixing up "North" as "up" in maps and globes during the age of sail, "South = down" is an almost universal metaphor. As to why to is omitted .... English is flexible like that. – Dan Bron Jan 27 '17 at 21:56
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    FWIW, elsewhere on the US east coast, "down the ocean" is used — by folks who live pretty much due west of the nearest beach resort. – Scott Jan 28 '17 at 3:28
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It appears the use of down is taken from local dialects and means; to.

down the shore,that is, to the shore

” In New Jersey, you invariably go “down the shore.” Baltimore natives, meanwhile, say they’re going “down the ocean” — but in Baltimorese (make that Bawlmerese), the phrase sounds more like “downy eaushin.” The down of “down the shore” and “down the ocean” doesn’t necessarily imply a southward journey. As in many dialects along the Eastern Seaboard, down can be used as a preposition indicating movement from the inland toward the shoreline.

Source: www.nytimes.com

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    If it may be of any interest, I think in Italian we have a similar way of saying: "giu in spiaggia". – Pam Jul 12 '14 at 16:33
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I've bundled my comments up into an answer in case the comment monster gets them at a later date.

A local dialect like BrE?

In common use in British English is the phrase

I'm going down the pub

which means

I'm going to the pub regardless of what compass bearing I have to take

The same type of phrase can be used in going down the town, up the snooker hall, down the club.


Matt Gutting added:

Exactly. "The Shore" is roughly a strip of land (and the included municipalities) from halfway down the east coast of New Jersey to Cape May at the extreme southeast corner. Going "down the shore" can be done from anywhere within a hundred miles or so of the shore, and simply means "going to a destination in this area".


That's pretty standard BrE.

We go down the whatever or up the whatever everywhere.

You can go up the town for the sole purpose of going down the pub.

You only need a degree of directionality if you are going somewhere distant like going up North, or down to Brighton.

Anything in an east or west direction doesn't have the distinction (the UK is not very wide) although if you were going to the west end of London you would say I'm going up West, even if you have to travel south and east to get there. The east end is almost always down, down the East end no matter where from.

It also does not require that you are intending to, or actually are, travelling. If you get a phone call and someone asks Where are you? you can reply with I'm down the pub.

To show just how common this is in BrE here's punk rock band Sham 69's "Hurry up Harry" from 1978, which makes considerable use of the phrase We're all going down the pub. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdVFzdRZF0Q (suitable for work but rather loud)

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    One difficulty with this, and I may edit the question to reflect the problem. The term "down the shore" can be used to indicate "where at" as well as "where to": He went down the shore for vacation, but also He has a house down the shore where he stays in summer. – Matt Gutting Jul 15 '14 at 23:02
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    @MattGutting In the static sense of he has a house down the shore versus he has a house up the hill, in BrE I think it would be referring more to a vague notion of altitude in the same way that rivers run down to the sea and everything inland is up from there (in most cases). I don't know what New Jersey folks would mean in that case. – Frank Jul 16 '14 at 4:49
  • I'm a Brit, and I'd assume 'down the shore' was a variant of 'along the shore', probably in a [mainly] southerly direction. 'Down the pub' affords only the possibilities of a conversationally deleted 'to' or 'at'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '15 at 22:08
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Going "down the shore" means driving from Northern NJ to southern seashore destinations. Pretty simple. To "drive down the shore" means to drive south on the Parkway, to the seashore.

  • Except that my brother-in-law, who lives outside Philadelphia, drives more-or-less due east when he goes "down the shore". – Matt Gutting Jul 7 '15 at 1:57
  • @MattGutting both people from northern NJ and your brother-in-law is transiting the Atlantic Seaboard fall line en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Seaboard_fall_line. However, the notion that it's solely travel on the Garden State Parkway is incorrect. Going 'down the shore' also encompasses travel on the Atlantic City Expressway, White Horse Pike and Black Horse Pike. – user662852 Sep 14 '15 at 19:55
  • @user662852 That's what I would have thought. – Matt Gutting Sep 14 '15 at 20:04
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As other people said it's a British phrase. I believe it can be used in relation to beach communities there as well (e.g., the song "Down to Margate" by Chas & Dave--you can find it on youtube).

  • Hello John. To quote tchrist, "We are looking for more substantial answers with documented references, not merely [statements that may possibly be no more than] personal opinion. Those are just comments, not answers." The fact that down the pub has been used in Britain since at least the time of the song you mention doesn't mean the 'down the ...' [preposition omitted] usage originated here. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '15 at 22:28
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We say Down the Shore we also say Up the Ave. So we go down to the shore then go up to the avenue. Direction is obsolete as my british friends have been saying. This is mostly Philly/Delaware/Jersey suburbs of Philly dialect. I lived in NYC for awhile and the don't say down the/up the like we do too much; with the exception of old school mostly Italian and Irish folk. You can also "go the" around here, as in "go the bank" or "go the store." All said and done, Down the Shore is only said by people from a specific area. There should be a map...

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The suggestion is that "down" used this way is a nautical expression related to the prevailing winds and sailing. Down east refers to the Maine coast. You got there sailing downwind from Boston in the summertime. Similarly, people in Maine say going up to Boston.

this from wikipedia -

The phrase "Down East" is used in several ways. Most broadly, it refers to areas from northeastern New England into Canada's Maritime Provinces.[1][4][5][6][7] Sargent F. Collier wrote that Down East extended from Maine into Canada as far as Chaleur Bay. This area is similar to the boundaries of the historical French colony of Acadia; Collier regarded this as a cultural legacy of the former colony.[7] According to Maine author John Gould, Down East is "a never-never land always east of where you are". The term is relational, with Boston being the traditional referent for determining what is "Down East". As such, sailors going from one port in Maine to another nearby may have said they were going "down Maine" or "east'ard", reserving "Down East" for farther points.[8]

Reference 7 from the article - Collier, Sargent F. (1953). Down East: Maine, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and the Gaspé. Houghton Mifflin. p. i.

Reference 8 from the article - Gould, John (2015). Maine Lingo: A Wicked-Good Guide to Yankee Vernacular. Down East Books. pp. 78–79. ISBN 1608935671.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_East

I'll leave it to others to evaluate the suggestion that it is a legacy from the Acadian colony.

protected by MetaEd Nov 14 '18 at 18:59

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