Why is there an upstate New York but not an upstate New Jersey, or an Oklahoma panhandle but not a Missouri panhandle? Both geographic phenomena exist in those places, but the terminology varies. This is part of a complete episode.

1 Response

  1. BocaJoe says:

    This reminds me of a term we used growing up in NJ, specifically in the NE part of Sussex County. The population exploded there in the 60s and 70s with new subdivisions and summer homes being converted to year-round residences, with the majority of new residents coming from the more urban areas of NJ and NYC.
    The majority of the folks moving into NE Sussex (Vernon, Franklin and environs) mainly came from Bergen and Passaic Counties, and when we would visit family and friends left behind in Bergen/Passaic, we would say we were going “Down Below”. If someone lived in Wayne, Clifton, Rutherford, they lived “Down Below”. Some say that started because Sussex County was higher up and we would be going down the mountain to areas “Down Below”, but I think it’s more specific to those with access to Rt. 23 heading southeast to the dense suburbs. I don’t think people in the Southern half of the County used this term (they go across Rt. 80) and the mountain thing may have something to do with it, but someone living on top of the mountain in Vernon would never say they were going “Down Below” if visiting somewhere local that was a much lower elevation. This was always specifically used when visiting Passaic/Bergen. For example, neighbors from and visiting Staten Island or Brooklyn or Morristown never would say they were going “Down Below”. And this wasn’t just those my family or neighborhood who used this, it was most people I new who had a connection down there.
    The last time I heard that expression was in the 1990s when I moved “Down Below” and someone who used to live “Down Below” asked if I was liking living “Down Below”. Since then I moved to the City, and the rest of my family moved “Down Below”, so I haven’t heard this used in 20 years!