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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Good is up and bad is down    

Good is up and bad is down

Russian Federation

Good is up and bad is down
What does that mean?
No context, no nothing!!!
Just an idiom from "Speakout Advanced"... Too advanced for me, obviously.
Please help. I m supposed to teach it tomorrow  

10 Nov 2015      

United Kingdom

Might it be to do with thumbs? Thumbs up is good, thumbs down is bad. Never heard it on its own, though. 

10 Nov 2015     


to complement what cunliffe suggested  - look here

10 Nov 2015     

maryse pey

May it be for mute communication like under water when diving ?

10 Nov 2015     

United Kingdom

Some sayings come to mind: Onward and upward! (Implicit is that downward is bad). 
Life is on the up.
Im feeling down... 
What about the song, The Only Way is Up. by Yazz.
Great link, Sophia.  
Is it the same in other languages? If so, is this linked to ideas of Heaven and Hell?  

Edit: And to illustrate: Smile Unhappy

10 Nov 2015     

United Kingdom

Well, if you feel "down" then things are normally pretty bad. As for being up, perhaps it means to "pick yourself up" (recover) or to be "upbeat" (positive or energetic).

10 Nov 2015     


I do not recall it being commonly used but a google reveals that it is a common metaphor

Things are looking up. We hit a peak last year, but its been downhill ever since. Things are at an all-time low. He does high-quality work.

Physical basis for personal well-being: Happiness, health, life, and control--the things that principally characterize what is good for a person--all are up.

LOL from your link Sophia - you gave me my morning chuckle

10 Nov 2015     

United Kingdom

It s not really an idiom as such, but given that it seems to be a part of the Speakout series which deals with metaphors, you might think of it along the same lines as:
  • Life is a Journey
  • Love is War
  • Ideas are Food
  • Time is Money

10 Nov 2015     

Russian Federation

Thank you very much everyone, I really appreciate your help.
Although the meaning seems quite blurred, the general ideal looks like that:
It is good when things are developing and growing,
It is bad when things are going into decline.
I hope that sums it up.
And I felt relieved that I was not the only one in doubt on the forum :)
I absolutely love Speakout series, but it s not the first time they ve puzzled even native speakers with their language......... 

10 Nov 2015     


Hello guys,
The two phrases "GOOD IS UP" and "BAD IS DOWN" can be examples of what is called "a conceptual metaphor" in cognitive linguistics.
Basically, the idea is that us human beings conceptualize and then codify abstract ideas, like good and bad, in terms of more concrete ideas and objects in our everyday experience, in order to make better sense of them.
For example, like you said, the actual realization of many things that we consider good (or essential to our survival and dignity, not necessarily good or bad in itself, anyway) is physically in the upward direction/ position, so we tend to overgeneralize and  conceptualize and then linguistically codify almost all good things in that way.
And there is universality to this, albeit to some degree.
Here s a link:
I hope you find it useful.

11 Nov 2015