Up/Down the Road

Okay, I don’t know if there’s a factual answer that I’m ignorant of or whether this is just a matter of opinion, so to be safe I put it in this forum.

Are the phrases : “It’s a few minutes up the road” and “It’s a few minutes down the road” synonimous? They seem to imply two different directions, but which directions are they?

Is "up the road generally in a northerly direction? Is that true for Aussies and Kiwis etc as well? How would it be going south (in the northern hemisphere) but up a hill? Or is this just randomly decided by whoever uses the expression so that whichever direction they call “up the road” will mean that “down the road” means the opposite way?

Any clarification/theories/personal usages?

(English here)

“Up the road” to me implies it’s a bit further than “down the road”. Also, I’d talk about going “down” to Devon, where my parents live, but “up” to London, even though they’re actually roughly west and east from here, rather than south and north. (And my parents’ place is higher in altitude, while London is lower…)

‘Up line’ and ‘down line’ are railway terminology which stems back to the earliest British railways - ‘up’ desingating the direction towards London, or towards a major junction. I’m guessing that these were based on an earlier convention, but I’m having trouble proving that via Google…

Yes, I’d heard that too, GorillaMan. But do people in Manchester, say, talk about going “up to London”. I doubt it.

I’ve always determined the “up” or “down” based on the destination’s direction away from my house.

For instance, I live in Georgia, near Atlanta. From my house, it would be “up the road to Snellville” or “down the road to Conyers” based on the slope of the road when I start towards either city.

Makes no sense, I know.

Thinking over how I use up & down in respect to direction, I’d say that here in Boston I use them to mean toward & away from the city center.

So if I were at home and told someone to go “up Mass Ave” I’d be directing them to go away from Boston, and if I told them to go “down Mass Ave” I’d be telling them to go toward Boston.

In talking about greater distances, such as between Boston & Montreal or Boston & New York, I use “up” to mean north & “down” to mean south. When I talk about going East & West, I just generally talk about going “to” a place without up/down.

It might just be me, though.

In most places, “down” would mean toward the city, or downtown, and “up” would mean away from the city. Especially since in many places the numbering of streets and addresses begin in the center of town.

The big exception that comes to mind is Manhattan. “Downtown” means both a direction (south) and a location (Lower Manhattan); “uptown” means both north and Upper Manhattan. And, of course, there’s Midtown.

I had to sit here and think about the differences in how I use the two. I warn you now, it’s odd.

I guess when I say somebody lives “down the road” or “up the street” from me, it’s relative to how I normally would drive. That is, if my normal driving route brings me to someone else’s house before mine, then they are “up the road” from me. If they are what I perceive to be as after my house, then they are down the road from me. But apparently the exception for me is if it’s a hill. There are people who, by the previous set of “rules” would be down the road from me - but are actually up the hill from me, so I just say they’re up the road, because… Well… they’re UP. But living in Connecticut, I go “down to North Carolina” or “up to Maine”, or “over to Pennsylvania”.

Working in Midtown Manhattan, it’s pretty basic for me. I always just use my current street and my destination street … If the destination is higher, I’m going up. If it’s lower, I’m going down. So a trek from 42 Street to 34th Street is “going down to 34th”, which also corresponds to N/S. If I’m headed E/W, then I’m just going “over”.

Some other guidelines: going to/from Scotland and Cambridge is always up/down respectively. Going away from a river (ie. upwards) is also up. Going out is generally down (I don’t say “I’m just going up to the pub”) But I think it’s ultimately just a matter of taste.

In Toronto, it’s easy for north-south streets. North is ‘up’, south is ‘down’.

This is reinforced by the fact that Toronto is bounded on the south by water, and by the fact that the start of these streets, being next to the water, is physically low. The southernmost parts of a number of streets are actually called "Lower <street name> Street’.

There are such expressions as ‘the foot of Yonge Street’ (where that street starts, at the water; everything is ‘up Yonge Street’ from there).

East-west streets–we don’t generally say ‘up’ or ‘down’ for them.

I think “down” generally refers to the direction toward the nearest center of population, and “up” is away from the center. You go “Down the road” from the farm to the village, you go “downtown” to get…well…downtown. You then go “uptown” to where the rich folk live, out away from the city center where it’s too crowded.

Just east of here are the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, and then the mountains. There, “up” and “down” tend to take on a much more literal meaning.

Here in Saskatchewan it’s so flat that if you say ‘up the road’ or ‘down the road’ people look at you as if you’re insane. :smiley:

I would say part of it is how you visulize the directions, if yoru internal ‘map’ has a North, or perhaps it being a major city that is in the ‘up’ direction. I know some are word based so it wouldn’t apply, but some (mainly men :p) will have a mental map of the route, so the ‘up’ direction is how they picture it.

The opposite is true in England, at least everywhere that I’ve lived - people go “up town”.