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I haven't succeed with a research of the phrase below cited from the House M.D. - Love Hurts, episode 7x06.

Dr. Lisa Cuddy:

The two of you have a combined IQ north of 300.

What does north of xxx means in case of using with a number, not direction?

Where is likely the usage of this phrase and in what situations?

Do exist another phrases using others of he world sides (sout, west, east) in a similar context?

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  • English uses directions in peculiar ways in a few contexts: bigger, as in north of xxx, as you used; and deteriorating or falling apart, particularly a situation, as in "the entire company is going south", to list a couple. I can't think of any non-standard usages of east or west. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 22:25

2 Answers 2

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On a standard map, north is on top, south on the bottom (and east / west right and left respectively).

This image is the base for using north / south figuratively:

  • If something is north of, it's above or over,
  • if it's south of, it's below the value or threshold mentioned in the context.

So you can rephrase your example as

... a combined IQ over 300.

(East and west are rarely used in a similarly figurative sense.)

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  • Sounds reasonable, thanks for the answer. Do you know in what places I can hear this phrase more likely? Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 21:09
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    Related, with origins and several examples: english.stackexchange.com/questions/42358/…
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 21:27
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    It could be used in any context related to a measurement or amount, such as a weight or an amount of money. It seems to me that using it with a period of time (e.g., “I’ve lived here for north of twenty-five years”) would be awkward but understandable. Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 2:46
  • The enemy's gate is down. Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 4:40
  • ^ Explanation
    – Stephie
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 4:51
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The sentence means that they have a combined IQ above 300.

You can find the definition here: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pt/dicionario/ingles/north-of-sth

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