What does the phrase 40 going north mean?

Some say “forty going north” means to “do something with great gusto and enthusiasm.” It is thought to have originated in the 19th century, but the individual who coined it is unknown.

Others believe the phrase stems from Lincoln’s executive order, “The Emancipation Proclamation”, where 40 slaves at a time left the Southern states to go North.

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English reports a meaning of “leaving or moving quickly”, with recorded origination date of 1993.

Updated on Sunday, April 29 2012 at 12:30PM EDT
Collection: interstate 40