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.
Tried-and-true words and phrases are convenient, but they are also truly trying — as with clichés, when a writer relies too heavily on stock usage, the resulting prose is tired and uninspired. Check out some problem words and phrase with their deadly usages at DailyWritingTips.com.
Of interest, History.com features 10 Common Sayings With Historical Origins.