going down there

(some explorations in sexual slang, with some street language, so not suitable for kids or the sexually modest)

A follow-up to yesterday’s posting “down there”, on male-genital down there, with a section on locational down there in Christopher Isherwood’s title Down There on a Visit (which comes with a strongly sexual tinge) — effectively ‘being down there’. An e-mail comment from Victor Steinbok:

oddly enough, going down there  doesn’t have the [AZ: oral sexual] meaning of going down

To which I replied:

Well, it can, with enough context — I can certainly construct the examples, which have going down as a constituent (with an oblique object marked with on), rather than down there as a constituent — but without such context, yes.

Of course, I’ve now gone on to supply an example, with some context supplied. And some comments on ambiguity.

My way-gay example:

I’m off to the baths. I’m going down there on every guy who offers me his dick.

This has the sexual slang idiom go down (on) ‘perform oral sex’.  From NOAD:

[V+Prt] verb go down on (go down on someone): vulgar slang perform oral sex on someone.

That is, go down there is in fact constructionally ambiguous (with accompanying lexical ambiguities), with two parsings:

[ go ] [ down there ]: motion verb go + location adverb down there (denoting the goal of motion); down there has the location adverb there as its head, with down as a modifying directional adverb

[ go down ] [ there ]: sexual verb+particle go down ‘perform oral sex’ + locational there (denoting the location where the oral sex takes place)

Notes on ambiguity. The big lesson, which I intone every so often, is that (potential) ambiguity is a feature of language, not a defect. So, again and again, an expression you think of as unambiguous in its understanding (because you see the meaning that’s appropriate to the context) turns out to have other understandings, sometimes quite surprising ones (like going down there ‘performing oral sex in that place’); you just have to switch the context.

Then you won’t be surprised to hear that going down there is more than two-ways ambiguous. I won’t say how many ways, because I don’t know how many further understandings there are, even if I focus only on ways of understanding V+Prt go down (in its PRP form going down). Some possibilities (extracted from NOAD):

go down ‘sink or crash’: We saw the ship going down there.

go down(of a person, period, or event) be recorded or remembered in a particular way’ (NOAD): Get the family record book; your long-lost cousin Alfie is going down there.

go down ‘be swallowed’: She’s taking the medicine at school: it’s going down there more easily than at home.

go down ‘get worse in quality’: Don’t buy stuff at Zeebie’s any more; the merchandise has been going down there for months now.

(North American informal, according to NOAD) go down ‘happen’: I’m puzzled by the situation in Marvin Gardens; dude, I don’t understand what’s going down there.

(Wait! Think of all the uses of the PRP in going down!)


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: