2

What is the more appropriate term for this idiom, up or down?

Right ____ your alley.

According to this idiom site, either are in use, but I would like to get the opinion of this erudite crowd.

Does the answer depend on the slope of the alley?

  • 1
    I would always use 'up', same for 'right up my street'. – Frank Jan 7 '15 at 16:50
  • Either is correct, "up" is more common in the US, "down" is usually reserved for "my alley" vs "your alley" (normally without "right", as in "That kind of problem is sort of down my alley."). – Hot Licks Jan 7 '15 at 17:09
  • It's not clear to me what you're asking about the "slope of the alley." There isn't actually an alley, of course; it's an idiom. Are you talking about when the phrase is applied to a domain of expertise/interest that has literal alleys? ("the bowling tournament was right up my alley", "mugging people was right up his alley") That case seems small enough that there is no established rule about it. – apsillers Jan 7 '15 at 17:28
  • @apsillers I suppose I'm getting at the origin of the idiom. When coined did the author envision an alley that does downhill, uphill or something else entirely. Does one always go up an alley or down an alley? – Minnow Jan 7 '15 at 17:37
  • The answer to your question is "up" as can be trivially found from any reference. if you have another question ("how did this originate" . whatever), ask it. – Fattie Jun 5 '15 at 16:14
5

Google Ngram showing "right up your alley" is currently seven times more popular

While down your alley appears to have been somewhat popular in the 1930s and 1940s, its usage has dropped considerably, and up your alley is vastly more popular in modern usage (by about a factor of seven). However, both phrases have seen recent usage, according to the samples linked at the bottom of the Ngram page.

Anecdotally (as a native Mideast U.S. speaker, born well after the 1940s), I cannot recall ever hearing down your alley used idiomatically, but I am very familiar with up your alley as an idiom.

  • Try "down my alley". – Hot Licks Jan 7 '15 at 21:14
3

This usage nearly always features up, not down. The AmE version is usually alley...

...but the BrE version is usually street...

The meaning is the same in all cases - something is exactly what you're interested or skilled in. It's irrelevant to ask about "the slope of the alley", since it's a figurative usage anyway (no "real" alley or street is being referenced).

0

The only version I've ever used personally, is: "Right up my alley," although if someone were to say it "Right down my alley," I would know what they meant, but it does sound a little odd; another saying which is very close in meaning to this one, is: "That's just what the doctor ordered," suggesting that the subject being discussed, is something which would be approved by one's physician, (metaphorically, of course).

  • 1
    I don't know that they are very similar in meaning. To be "up someone's alley" means that it is in their area of expertise. To say something is "just what the doctor ordered" means that it is the proper solution to your problem. They really can't be used in the same situations at all. – Jim Jan 7 '15 at 17:28
  • Hey Jim, Correct. However, the meanings are, as I indicated, similar, not the same. – Luigi Long Oct 29 '18 at 13:40
  • No. Not similar at all. If you can use one in any given situation, the other does not fit. Period. It is misleading at best to offer these in the same answer. – Jim Oct 29 '18 at 15:06
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I was watching a British film circa 1930's and the phrase " right down your street" was said. I think an American take on that phrase " right up your alley" originated.

protected by tchrist Sep 30 '17 at 13:59

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