Notes From Babel

It’s all downhill from here

with one comment

One of my co-workers turned 40 today, and while we were ribbing him about getting older, someone exclaimed, “It’s all downhill from here.”  Now, either this person was charitably undertaking to ease up on the geezer jokes and highlight the joys of growing older, or this was malapropism of an already limp expression.  The saying really means that difficulty is behind and easier going is ahead, no?

But the saying appears to be understood almost as well for two completely opposite meanings.  Worse, many people seem to think the expression can and does mean two disparate things at once.  Here’s a gem:

I believe the saying is meant to indicate that the downhill part of any journey, whether it be physical, emotional, or philosophical, is easier than the journey on the way up. It doesn’t suggest that the journey is over, but that the struggle to reach a goal may be.
On the other hand, “downhill” can also suggest a slippery slope so that one may still require sure footing, a helping hand, or any other metaphor that would suit the situation. It suggests that there is still the opportunity for a fall. So be careful and watch out!

Apparently, the admonition here is, stay away from hills altogether.

For my part, I submit the expression refers to an endless pile of goose feathers.

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Written by Tim Kowal

August 31, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Language

One Response

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  1. I love phrases that can be used interchangeably in various situations. The downside is, they tend to become speech ticks for many people, and lose their vigor.

    Trying to think of another good one, and I can’t. I’ll be back if I think of one.

    BothEyesShut

    September 1, 2010 at 9:19 am


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