just like downtown

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just like downtown

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:15 pm

I'm looking for the origin of this phrase.

Ralph
Submitted by Ralph Varney (Cleveland - U.S.A.)
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just like downtown

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:29 pm

Ralph, JUST LIKE DOWNTOWN is a U.S. teenage phrase of the 1990s which is used as a phrase of satisfaction when a plan works out as required. ‘Downtown’ has been used as a verb in U.S. Black English since the 1920s in a positive sense. In New York City, residents of Harlem would signify their success in the world by leaving the ghetto and moving ‘downtown.’ So to ‘downtown’ came to mean ‘to move up in the world.’ I couldn’t find the comparable noun sense in any slang dictionaries, but with its good connotations it is not much of a stretch to see how ‘downtown’ may have come to be used as a good place to be – and it does, in fact, appear as a double-meaninged slang expression for the genital area. (<:) And, it is also not hard to imagine how ‘just like downtown’ may have come to mean that everything has worked out well.

(Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang)
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Ken G – March 25, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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just like downtown

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 1:44 pm

I don't know about teenagers in 1990 but I heard it from a welder in a steel mill in Sault Ste Marie Ontario, Canada, in 1968. It had exactly that meaning listed above, that is, everything has worked out well. In my provincial mindset and physical location it was also easy to imagine that we in the factory and mill were referring to the white collar workers in the head office, which was clean, a reputedely easy place to work, and co-incidentally - downtown.
Reply from Frederick Sweet (Montréal - Canada)
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Re: just like downtown

Post by redrocket » Mon May 04, 2015 2:14 pm

Definitely did not originate in the 1990's. My Grandfather (85 years old) and Great Uncle (95 years old) use the phrase often. My Uncle was a carpenter. He worked in a small 3rd class city. So when he or the workers would finish a job or a task, they would use the phrase "Just like Downtown" or Just like Chicago" or "Just like Pittsburg" or Pitts-a-boyg, referring to the way immigrants might have said it. The reference to the cities was to say that we can do it just like they can. As listed, a feeling of satisfaction.
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Re: just like downtown

Post by Phil White » Mon May 04, 2015 6:23 pm

Being a Brit, I haven't a clue what "downtown" really means, but there's plenty of evidence out there that the phrase "just like downtown" has been around since the '50s with something like the meaning given above:
Universal's Exclusive "Whirlpool Broiler broils "just like downtown".
LIFE Magazine, 9 October 1950
(The fact that the phrase is in quotes suggests a) that it certainly already existed as an informal phrase and b) was seen as recent by the copywriter of the ad.

Several Billboard charts from 1955 (the earliest I could find was 16 April) list the (IMHO pretty frightful) song "Just like downtown" by Jimmy Work, although the use of the phrase seems a little more literal here.
Google ngram shows nothing before the '50s, a sharp rise and equally sharp decline in use in the late '70s and another sharp rise in the '90s. Ngrams need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Multiple references to the song above in the '50s artificially boost the results for the '50s, for instance. But at least they indicate that the phrase was established by then.
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Non sum felix lepus

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