The phrase "Go west"

31 posts in this topic

Posted

Question from a translator colleague here.

Customer has a brochure about medical products and wants it translated into English. Because there is some reference to US/Canadian markets in the brochure, customer wants the headline "Go West". Proofreader says, "No, 'go west' means to die, or go wrong, or kick the bucket." A small sample of Brits (i.e. me and garibaldi) say, "No, we associate 'go west' with pioneers and emigration and striking out for a new life and lots of positive things."

I know "it's all gone west" or "it's all gone south" as exp​ressions for things going wrong, but it definitely wouldn't be my first association in the brochure headline example. Could this be a US/GB distinction, or maybe a generational thing (old enough to remember the Marlboro ads, the Pet Shop Boys, the numerous films, or even the original quotation)? Or is the proofreader just - gasp - wrong?

Link to related discussion about 'going south'

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Posted

"Go West, young man" is the pioneer thing, a quote attributed to Horace Greeley (a newspaper man in the mid 19th century).

"Going West" can most definitely mean dying. As a pharmaceutical company I would be very wary of this phrase. Maybe "Exploring New Frontiers" is a better term.

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Posted

A small sample of Brits (i.e. me and garibaldi)

The feckin' turncoat!

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Posted

I mostly think of the Pet Shop Boys and Ambrosia creamed rice when I hear the expression. Never knew it was associated with death. But thanks, I've had Danny Boy stuck in my head for the last few weeks and was in need of a new Ohrwurm. :D

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Posted

Keydeck, "Brits" was used purely in the sense of "non-Yanks". His mammy is spinning in her grave as I write.

sara, would you associate 'go west' with the death idea in a future meaning or as a command, though? 'He'll probably go west tonight' sounds more like travel plans than dying to me. Nice suggestion, by the way.

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Posted

"He's cutting his ties and going west" is something I would have said about my Dad (if either he or I had been/were into euphemisms) when he was dying of a brain tumor and celebrated his last, big party before packing up his extensive books and comics collection and retiring to his cabin in the Sierra to await death.

Let's put it this way: If I read a pharmaceuticals brochure containing the phrase "Go West!" it would tickle my unintentional humorous bone, reminding me of the travel agency brochure he got a few weeks before he died. Its tagline was "Paradise awaits you!", and he and I had a great laugh reading it together. It was nice to have the confirmation.

And: You're welcome.

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Posted

Thank-you crusoe, now I feel old. The pioneering association is my first, closely chased up by the Pet Shop Boys. I wouldn't associate it with impending death though.

How about something with breaking barriers, crossing borders, boldly going where... no maybe not.

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Posted

You feel old? My first thought is usually the Buster Keaton film from 1925. (Not from the first time round, though.)

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Posted

we associate 'go west' with pioneers and emigration and striking out for a new life and lots of positive things

Same here.

Edit: But I wouldn't use it as a headline (except possibly in a travel brochure or for a company with "West" in its name).

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Posted

To me, the associations are, in order:

Death

The Pet Shop Boys.

ummm, so probably not a great advert ;)

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Posted

Yup, I think westward expansion and manifest destiny. But a quick google search shows that it's an idiom for "die".

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Posted

Huh. I never knew that it meant "death". You learn something new every day. Lebenslanges Lernen.

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Posted

The general trend is certainly "ditch that headline" ...

Interesting though, I would never connect it with death at all except in the present perfect ("he's gone west"), and even then not automatically. But as a lot of Brits think of the death association first, I must be a) very old or B) very sheltered, with an option on c) a bit weird.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts!

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Posted

Meh, Pet Shop Boys? Village People!

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Posted

Hmm. I wonder how old it is then. The basic conceit in e.g. Tolkien's novels is that the "Uttermost West" is equivalent to Valhalla or Eden.

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Posted

I have read it as a euphemism for dying in a (British) book originally published in 1930, "Strong Poison" by Dorothy L. Sayers.

*Don't read the plot summary, read the book instead.*

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Posted

Just another voice here - never heard of it in connection with death either. Purely pioneering and finding your luck and all that stuff.

But then again, I'm from the 'west' (in the sense of pioneers, settlers, cowboys and indians and my dad born on his grandfather's homesteaded ranch) myself.

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Posted

The west is the best.

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Posted

I too am from the west. Before I was born, my parents went either very far west or very far east, depending on the direction their flights took.

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Posted

I always had this subconcious notion of the east being comprised mostly of empty wastelands and bleak emptiness - probably came from growing up with the cold war and seeing those BBC news reports of miserable russian sstanding around in the freezing cold watching processions of missiles on May Day. The west for me is the west of England, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, the most beautiful places (at least for me) anywhere in the world, and full of history and Anglo Saxon culture.

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