Tuesday, June 23, 2015

talking about streets, roads, etc.

A while ago, I wrote about a difference in AmE and BrE use of street and road, in that in BrE it's more natural to cross the road and in AmE (certainly in a town or city) it's more common to cross the street. (I've also written about in/on the street, so see that post for more on that.) That's common-noun usage, but what about the proper names of vehicular paths?

There's no question that some ways of designating paths are more common in one country or the other. I've never seen a road named [Something] Trail or [Something] Boulevard in the UK (though see the comments for some counterexamples), and in the US there aren't as many Crescents or (BrE) Closes (pronounced with a /s/, not a /z/). But a problem for making generali{z/s}ations about such things is that the naming of streets or roads varies a lot on the local level in both countries, with different names based on regional differences, urban/rural differences, and terrain differences.

The other day Damien Hall (tweeting as @EvrydayLg) pointed out:
Struck since long B4 I lived there by US habit of omitting eg St, Rd in addresses. We don't.
He hypothesi{z/s}ed that it might be because street is more common in the US and therefore the default. But I don't think that's why. Instead, Americans are happy to say things like
go up Main and take the first right onto Union
...because in most cases that will be an unambiguous statement, since there will typically only be one thoroughfare called Main (Street) and one called Union (maybe Avenue) in a town. I often send packages to a friend who lives in Tennessee. I've never bothered to find out if she lives on Woodland Street or Woodland Lane because I only need to put '140 Woodland' (and the city, state and, if I'm nice, the zip code) on the package and it gets there. As you can see from this (AmE) yard sale sign, the practice of not saying street or road is common. (Where there is more than one with the same name, you'll hear the street/road/lane/whatever more regularly.)

(Side note on codes: Five-digit US zip codes only say which town or which part of a city the address is in, unlike six-or-seven-letter/number UK post codes, which generally indicate the town/part-of-city in the first half (letter-letter+1- or 2-digit number) and which street or part-of-street in the second half (number-letter-letter). Nine-digit US zip codes, called ZIP+4, are a more recent addition* that do indicate street, but which I don't actually use. I couldn't tell you what mine is at the US address I use. 
*It says how old I am that I consider something from 1983 a 'recent addition'. )

'Street'-less street names are so unambiguous that most Americans would immediately recogni{z/s}e that the film title State and Main refers to a corner in a town--mostly likely in the cent{er/re} of the town, since those are common street names in American towns and because we refer to (AmE) intersections or the corners at those intersections in that way. 

(I'm sure I've mentioned before that Main Street is a likely street to have in a town as the main street. It is also metaphorically used to refer to 'the inhabitants of small US towns considered as having a narrow-minded or materialistic worldview' (AHD5). So, politicians might worry about 'what will fly on Main Street'. The High Street is the proverbial main street in a British town (it may or may not be named High Street) and is used metaphorically to refer to the commercial market--i.e. 'what will fly on the high street' is what the masses are likely to want to buy.)

British roads need the street or road (etc.) because little is unambiguous when it comes to British road names.

Take my former (more common in AmE) neighbo(u)rhood as an example:


There is a Buckingham Road, which meets Buckingham Place. Buckingham Street runs parallel to Buckingham Road, but doesn't meet Buckingham Place because halfway through it changes its name to Clifton Street. Off the map are Clifton Road, Clifton Hill, Clifton Street, Clifton Place and Clifton Terrace. But we don't need to leave this map to see that there's also a West Hill Street, West Hill Road and West Hill Place. I also feel bad for the people who live on the parallel Albert Road and Alfred Road who probably get each other's (AmE) mail/(BrE) post all the time.

Once I found an unconscious man on Buckingham Place.  Except I didn't know which Buckingham it was. The ambulance people were (BrE) well (orig. AmE) pissed off at me.

If that weren't bad enough, I now live on a road that shares its entire name with another road in the same city. When I tell taxis where to take me I have to say "X Street, off Y Road". We always tell plumbers and such which one to go to (we even give them our post code) and then when they don't show up, we text them to say "no, it's the other one".

A famous exception to the 'one pathway per name' rule in the US is New York City, which has both a 3rd Street and a 3rd Avenue. Except that it doesn't really have a '3rd Street', since you need to put East or West in front of it in order for the house number to be meaningful--so if someone says they live on East 5th, you know it's East 5th Street. In New York and the US more generally Avenue is often abbreviated in speech (as well as writing) to its first syllable (written as Ave. or Av.). 

And so onto the Easts and Wests. In the US, you can reasonably expect that East Main Street and West Main Street are the same thoroughfare, but that house numbering starts from the where they join (or divide, depending how you think of it). East Main Street will run to the east from that (AmE) intersection/(BrE) junction.

In some cities they put the compass-points after the name and that can mean something different. In Washington, DC, it indicates quadrant of the city that that part of the road is in. So, 7th Street NW and 7th Street SW are one long road that runs north/south, but the parts of it in different quadrants of the city. On the other side of the capitol building, the street numbering starts over, and so 7th Street SE and 7th Street NE run parallel to the other 7th Street NW/SW.

So, the other day, I had to find Brunswick Street East in Hove (UK). Somehow (¡Apple Maps!) I ended up on Brunswick Street West. I knew that Brunswick Street East would not be a continuation of West (after all, the road was running north-south), but I hoped it would be the next street eastward. It was not. At least it was eastward. (I hadn't been willing to trust even that.) But I did get to see Brunswick Place, Brunswick Square and Brunswick Terrace in my explorations.

Finding street names is its own challenge. In the US, street signs tend to be affixed to poles at the corners of roads. At some big intersections, they may hang over the road on the wires that hold the (AmE) stop lights/(BrE/AmE) traffic lights. In the UK, they tend to be on buildings or walls near the end of the road. This may require some searching since some are high and some are low. Here's one of my favo(u)rites from Brighton:






House-numbering, of course, is another nightmare. In the US, it's pretty predictable that even numbers will be on one side of the road and odd ones on the other. In the UK, it might be that way (though you've no guarantee that 92 will be across the street from 93--it might be many houses further down). Another UK way is to have consecutive numbering up one side of the road (1, 2, 3, 4,...) to wherever the road ends and then down the other side, so that, say, 52 and 53 may be across the road from one another, but 1 will be across the road from 104. Another way it might be is that the name of the road on one side is different from the name on the other side--so, for example, the people at 15 Vernon Terrace in Brighton live across from the people at 17 Montpelier Crescent. (And Vernon Terrace only lasts for one (AmE) block, after which its name changes and house numbers re-start twice before you get to the sea, which has pleasantly few thoroughfare names.)

I've talked about differences in house numbering on Numberphile, so (BrE) have a look at the video if you are (orig. AmE) nerdy enough want to hear more about house-numbering:



151 comments:

Chris Pickel said...

No discussion of dromonyms would be complete without a map of the vicinity of P.S. 153 Maspeth in Queens:
https://www.google.co.jp/maps/@40.7156417,-73.9047947,18z

Rich Thomas said...

On British numbering confusion: in my experience, the 'odds on one side, evens on the other' is so prevalent that I very rarely encounter anything else, and consider it to be the absolute British standard. Indeed, if I came across, say, the '1 to 52 on one side, then 53 to 104 back' method I'd find it completely alien and confusing. Maybe Brighton is just more confusingly-addressed than everywhere I've lived!

On 'Boulevard': Nottingham has several of these, but I can't recall seeing any anywhere else.

Peter Owen said...

We have a few Boulevards in Liverpool, including one called just "The Boulevard", and Speke Boulevard near the airport.

Jason Collins said...

Cardiff has a 'boulevard' that goes past the museum - though when I spoke to 'old hands' it used to be called something else entirely.

On the subject of numbering, I remember once going to a house viewing in South Clapham and becoming utterly confused by the fact that the house number in the close didn't seem to exist. In fact, it was outside the close and on the opposite side of the road.

Nicholas said...

And of course Avenue Road (in north London) causes AmE users all sorts of problems. And in my vicinity there is West Heath Road, West Heath Close, West Heath Gardents, West Heath Avenue and West Heath Drive.

But the AmE usage of dropping the "Street"/"Road" etc can lead to all sorts of difficulties when visiting the UK. I recall being stopped on Marylebone Rd and being asked by an American Tourist how to get to "Oxford", and I sent them to Paddington Station.

L N Srinivasakrishnan said...

There's an Avenue Road in Bangalore (India) too. That's where you went at the beginning of the school year to get school supplies i.e., textbooks, loose leaf folders, stationery etc. I always knew something was wrong with that name Avenue Road. I know now, after 40 years :)

Debby said...

I grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey (USA), where we had a Tuscan Rd. and a Tuscan St., and a Burnett Avenue and a Burnett Terrace (as well as a Burnet St.). I think leaving off the "street," "avenue," etc., is a regional thing in the US.

lynneguist said...

I meant to share another anecdote:

A friend recently moved to a X Street that's near X Lane, X Road, and X Avenue. Her house is number 3. I found Number 4 at the end of X Street. There was nowhere else for number 3 to be, as there was a 90° turn at the end, at which X Lane started. Except when I phoned her to say I couldn't find it, she waved from a door that was around that corner. It turns out that 3 X Street is on X Lane, and it is the only X Street address on that lane. The way it is placed, there is no way it could even have an entrance on X Street. For some reason, X Lane does not start where the road ends.

lynneguist said...

^^(That is a Brighton anecdote, of course!)

Damien Hall said...

Thanks for this, lynneguist! That neighbourhood in Queens is something else, Chris.

I'd like to add a further speculation to the one lynneguist's already quoted: that UK Boulevards are usually relatively new streets. That's certainly the case for St James' Boulevard, Newcastle, which opened in 1998 (according to http://www.newcastle.gov.uk/wwwfileroot/legacy/libraries/HistoryofNewcastlemainbody.pdf). I don't know about the history of boulevards in other cities, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were new too.

-- @EvrydayLg

Aven said...

I generally agree with the American usage for Canadian cities--except in newer subdivisions, where they'll sometimes use the same name over and over again, with Avenue, Street, Crescent etc. to differentiate. But out West, at least in Calgary and Edmonton, the suffixes are crucial -- the streets (in the main part of the city at least) are all numbered, not named, and the "Streets" run north-south (I think) and "Avenues" run east-west, but there's each combination in each quadrant of the city! That is, 4th Street SW crosses 4th Avenue SW, while 4th Avenue NW crosses 8th Street NW. But they're not actually all on a grid, because of all the rivers and ravines and train tracks in the city. I don't know how anyone finds anything!

ellarien said...

@Nicholas, I once overheard an American tourist in London contemplating asking a taxi to take them to 'Oxford.' That would have been an expensive misunderstanding!

I once lived in a London flat which was 113 X Road -- the building didn't have a separate name. Right opposite was a bigger block of flats for which the addresses were Flat nnn, Y Estate, X Road, with a one-letter difference in the postcode. I had endless trouble with postal confusion, especially when the people in Flat 113 moved and got their mail redirected!

Ed said...

@Damien I agree, Boulevards are generally new. Wikipedia says "Baron Haussmann made such roads well known in his re-shaping of Second Empire Paris between 1853 and 1870."

Ginger Yellow said...

"@Nicholas, I once overheard an American tourist in London contemplating asking a taxi to take them to 'Oxford.' That would have been an expensive misunderstanding!"

I had a similar experience when a colleague visited from the States and asked if a given shop was "on Oxford". It took me a good while to parse the sentence and figure out that he meant the street.

Eloise said...

Although I agree I expect numbers on UK streets to be odd on one side, even on the other, I live on one (actually without a street/road etc. modifier which causes huge problems when I give out my address) that goes down one side and up the other. My neighbours are 34 and 36, and over the road is number 13.

Gesci said...

I grew up in Atlanta, a city notorious for confusing transplants and visitors with its ubiquitous Peachtrees. That said, we'd normally still leave off the Street/Road/Boulevard when giving directions, although we would say "Peachtree Industrial" for Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
Even with that being normal in my brain, the hard-to-spot road names in Britain did throw me several times! My husband and I commented that we didn't know how visitors or new residents navigated Great Britain before GPSes- when we would use a paper map it was very tedious to determine just which York (Place, Terrace, Mews) we were seeking! And both of our homes there were named, neither of which had the name posted anywhere. So when giving friends directions to our house we had to count buildings from the turn or use some other landmark, like specifically parking our car out front!

Anonymous said...

The problem I have is that my UK housenumber is 17a - this is a house between 17 and 19, when the old 19 was bombed in the 40s they built two new houses in its space, the next to 21 stayed as 19, and the new house became 17a. I gather this is not completely uncommon, but it's much more usual for 17a to refer to a house that has been converted into flats (17a on the ground floor, 17b on the first, 17c on the second, or whatever) so half my post gets given to house 17 next door because people assume 17a is part of that building. Not least because on my road there are several converted houses that do work like that.

Also it used to be a pain in the ass to enter on online forms which only accepted numerical characters in the "House number" field, but most of them are better about that now (and you can always put "a Station Road" in the street name field to get round it anyway)

Lazygal said...

Thanks to Manhattan, there's a myth that all of NYC is on a grid. As Chris points out, Queens is very difficult to navigate (apparently there is a method to the madness, but I've never figured it out). In Brooklyn, East 28th Street didn't connect with West 28th Street, causing much confusion for visitors to my apartment.

Where I live now there's a Boulevard. No other name, not even a "the". Just plain "Boulevard". Makes me smile every time I pass by.

Nicholas said...

"Boulevards" are so very Milton Keynes

CGHill said...

There exists at least one street in the States in which the numbers run up one side and down the other: Hily Avenue in Savannah, Georgia.

Edmond, Oklahoma has an arterial called simply Boulevard (which may be North or South); as it drifts southward into Oklahoma City it becomes Eastern Avenue, a section of which was later renamed for Martin Luther King.

DL said...

The American penchant for using grid systems and highway numbers as street names seems to be the thing that gives our British family the most confusion. At various times I have had to explain that we don't live on a very long street but it is accurate that my house number has five digits, and my street only has a number, not a name.

Although even as an American, our habit of using nth Terrace/Lane/Road/Drive to mean "parallel to nth Street/Avenue, but between nth Street/Avenue and (n+1)th Street/Avenue" confuses me because you're never sure in an unfamiliar city what suffixes mean what direction, although my current home city has solved this through the clever use of fractions, as evidenced below.

https://www.google.com/maps/@30.297979,-97.717789,3a,33.3y,216.31h,93.5t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sGOFmxeNzCkoHAbHQVKBONA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

DCBob said...

Ditto to the observation about American subdivisions, and would add that the names are almost always English: I live in a neighborhood outside of Washington DC on Englishman Drive off which exists an Englishman Court, and within 400 yards I have Grosvenor Lane, Grosvenor Court, Grosvenor Terrace, Grove Ridge Court, Grove Ridge Way, and Grove Ridge Place. Over in Arlington, almost any numbered road can be a Street or a Road, and one will often cross the other. In Seattle, the east-west roads are Streets but the north-south roads are Avenues, and they're all distinguished by which quadrant of the city they're in; by convention, one specifies a location by street, avenue, and quadrant, e.g. "55th and 35th NE."

Jamie said...

We moved into our Edinburgh rental house on a Friday, and on Saturday morning I thought I'd walk over to the nearest Catholic church to see what the schedule was for Sunday. I looked up the address in the phone book (this was 1998) and set off. Quickly I found myself in a snarl of streets called Ferniesomething Something: Ferniehill Crescent, Fernieside Way, Fernietorment Perdition. I realized I was too vague on the particulars of the address, remembering only that the number was in the low double digits. In the part of the US where we'd been living, an address of XX Ferniexx Xx would have fallen in a single block of a single street -- not so in Edinburgh!

conuly said...

Oh, geez, Queens. Queens has some weird-ass numbering system too, where every building gets two numbers...? I've never tried to figure it out. Spiderman can keep Queens for all I care!

Every borough in NYC excepting Staten Island has a grid system, but none of them, including Manhattan, is 100% on the grid and their grids don't align anyway.

Staten Island has its own confusion. The borough of Staten Island is one and the same as Richmond County. (Every borough in NYC is a state county. Brooklyn is Kings County and so on.) So we've got a Richmond Terrace, and a Richmond Avenue, and a Richmond Road... Richmond Road, btw, every single time it makes a 3-point intersection with another street where you'd assume "Oh, Richmond Road ends here", does it? Nope! It turns into whatever street it's perpendicular with and keeps on going!

Now, really, no discussion of American street grid conventions is complete without Utah. Utah has a very interesting approach to numbering which you can see most clearly in Salt Lake City. If you're thinking "Is this because of the Mormons?" you are 100% correct, and I'll leave you all to google it for yourselves. If you've ever wondered why you bothered learning how to plot points in a coordinate grid, well, Utah is the answer.

David Crosbie said...

The story that I heard regarding Nottingham boulevards is that some councillor (or possibly just someone with friends in Nottingham City Council) came back from a visit to Paris and urged the building of Haussmann-style boulevards in the city.

The defining characteristic was that they were wide (by the standards of the time) and straight. In Paris, this was to allow the cavalry more easily to charge the barricades and put down insurgents, but that wasn't a requirement in Nottingham.

Western Boulevard, where I grew up, is part of a string of boulevards constituting a partial ring-road. These boulevards are, for the most part, dual carriageways (I'm not sure that translates into AmE), though that's not true of all Nottingham boulevards.

Aliceq said...

This all reminds me of the time I arrived in London after a long day of travel and asked a taxi driver to take me to my cousin's flat on Margaret Street, only to have the driver ask me "which Margaret Street?" Fortunately, I remembered offhand enough of her postal code to disambiguate.

lynneguist said...

'Dual carriageway' is 'divided highway' on US maps, but I don't know that people really call them that (or anything in particular).

There's another post on all that: http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/on-highwaymotorway.html

Boris Zakharin said...

There are certain places in the US where the suffix is not even signed on the road signs. Cleveland metro is one such place. While here in NJ it is common to omit the street suffix in speech, I've never seen it omitted on signs until I visited Cleveland for the first time. Also in Cleveland metro (extending pretty far out into most suburbs) all streets share a block grid, so all streets perpendicular to two other given streets will have numbers between say 123400 and 123499 even if a given street is only one block long.

Another number-related system that exists in very rural areas is mile-based numbering where you multiply the nearest mile marker by 100 and then just number sequentially from there. Your house might be 123001 even if the your nearest neighbor is 100 miles away (and his number would be 223001).

With very rare exceptions all numbers (house, mile, exit) reset to zero at state lines, but house numbers may or may not reset at municipality lines. Worse, if two neighboring towns have unshared grids, your numbered street can change numbers at the town line or it may retain its number (typically if it's a larger thoroughfare) and break the grid in the other town.

Also, aside from regional peculiarities a suffix in the US conveys almost no information about what a street is like. Courts and Places are usually dead ends and lanes are usually small in-neighborhood streets, but an Avenue or Boulevard can be anything from a tiny local street to a divided highway.

Moving away from US and UK, I know St. Petersburg (Russia) numbered streets where the number refers to the *side* of the street, not the whole street. e.g. even streets are northbound and odd ones are southbound. Also, in rural parts of Russia, you might have a house number without a road name.

Boris Zakharin said...

Oh, as for directional suffixes, I used to live near a road sign which read something like "S Park Pl 202 N" (with 202 inside a US Highway Symbol). Park Place is a one square block park in the center of down town. "So S Park Pl" is the roadway that is the southern border of Park Place which happens to carry Highway 202 Northbound (202 N). This is also an exception to the place = dead end rule in my comment above.

David Young said...

On Sunday I was asked for help by a delivery driver whose docket showed "43 Manor Road, West Sussex" as his target. The postcode showed him to be on the correct Manor Road at least. He was outside No. 18, which is opposite No. 61, of course. On my ill-judged advice he searched long and hard west and then east for No. 43, to no avail, but remained, I thought, astoundingly cheerful. While my neighbour offered chat and a cup of tea, I finally turned to Google, which showed his goal to be the prominent pub/restaurant a few doors down, which neither displays a street number, nor, apparently, thinks it worth including its name in its delivery address.

Anonymous said...

Then there's Salt Lake City, with streets like "East 900 South" (aka "E 900 S", aka "E 9th S") which indicates it runs 9 blocks south of the Temple/city center, and it's the part of the street that extends east from longitude of the Temple. "475 E 900 S" is an address that's between 4 and 5 blocks east, and 9 blocks south of the Temple.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

One of the stops on the Croydon Tramlink is also called Avenue Road.

What confused us quite dreadfully when we first hired a car in the USA was the convention there of putting the name of the cross street in the street you were on, and until we worked that out, we kept thinking we must be on the wrong street and should have turned off! And the fact that the house numbers started again when you got to the next village/township... but once you know, of course, it's easy.... same as our system is easy.

Mind you, some of our shibboleths - one of the things you and your colleague didn't mention in the video, Lynne, was bus numbers. Why do we call the 37 the "thirty-seven", but the 337 is the "three three seven"... very strange.

And with regard to suffixes, I live on Something Lane, which is abbreviated in phone books to "Something La." I knew I was being spammed when the caller asked if I lived in "Something La", pronouncing it like la-la-la.... I told him that if he was going to spam British people he would do well to learn the conventions for abbreviating addresses that we use.....

enitharmon said...

There is one way in which "street" is priviliged in BrE though ­– it is the only designation which doesn't take stress, as all the others do. The Main Street of the town where I live is called Dalton Road.

Sometime in the late nineteenth century "street" fell from favour, probably because it became associated with the rows of terraced houses in industrial towns and cities. Whole towns and well-heeled suburbs grew up in which "street" was assiduously avoided, a tendency that continues in new developments to this day.

My favourite set of streets was the foursome that I used to encounter in Liverpool, from the top of the bus heading from the uni [sic] residences to the uni proper along Smithdown Road. In order, on the left hand side heading townwards, they were Holmes Street, Wendell Street, Whittier Street and Greenleaf Street (how wonderful to live in Greenleaf Street!) I tended not to look on that side on the way back in the evening, so it took me a while for the penny to drop. I was gratified, visiting Liverpool a few weeks ago, to see that those streets still exist, with a mixture of new housing and parts of the old terraces scrubbed up nicely.

Dick Hartzell said...

The other day my daughter and I set out for a branch of a local bank that boasts its locations include machines that can digest coins (my daughter had just over $60 of them) and spit out a receipt the bank will convert to paper money. When we arrived, we learned the machine was out of order -- but a helpful employee told us about two other nearby branches, one of which was at "1st and 2nd." Since we were in Manhattan, I was slightly annoyed by this ambiguous address and asked for clarification. "I assume you mean 1st Avenue and 2nd Street, " I said. She seemed to nod without thinking, leaving me to wonder if she was aware that "1st and 2nd" could also mean 1st Street and 2nd Avenue ... especially since both of these possible addresses were reasonably close to where we were standing. (Exercising caution, my daughter and I opted to go to the other location.)

Then there's our home address on West Broadway. More than once I've supplied my address to a person on the telephone and, when I've recited "West Broadway", had the person ask if that was its full name. "Is that it? Not West Broadway ... Street?" "No," I answer, "Just West Broadway." Until I was confronted by these slightly puzzled queries I'd never stopped to consider that "Broadway" alone might somehow be insufficient as the name of a thoroughfare -- even though as a one-word destination it conveys, without elaboration, plenty for most any tourist over the age of 12.

Boris Zakharin said...

@Dick Hartzell,
At least one Broadway Street exists in NJ and I've always thought it was strange and redundant. There are unsuffixed Broadways all over the place around here. There's also a fairly famous Street Road in Pennsylvania. I was told that goes back etymologically to "street" meaning straight in some language, but Wikipedia claims "street" meant a paved road at the time it was built.

David Crosbie said...

Boris Zakharin

St. Petersburg (Russia) numbered streets where the number refers to the *side* of the street, not the whole street.

Are you thinking of the numbered Lines on Vassilyevsky Island? The reason for the names was perfectly rational. The grand plan for the island was for a little Venice with canals. The Lines (First, Second & Third, Fourth & Fifth etc) were to be streets on either side (except for the First). Thanks largely to massive embezzlement, the canals were never built. But nobody thought to rename the pairs of Lines as as the single streets they had become.

David Crosbie said...

zenitharmon

There is one way in which "street" is priviliged in BrE though ­– it is the only designation which doesn't take stress, as all the others do.

Not quite. The street name Gate — common in places where the Danes lived — is unstressed.

Where the word denotes a (former) 'gate' in the English sense, it carries stress as in Notting Hill Gate. I don't know about other towns, but in Nottingham there is no ambiguity. Goose Gate, Grey Friar Gate and the others are all streets. The location of a former 'gate' is called Chapel Bar.

You could also argue that -market has become a street-name suffix, in that many streets are names after the markets they once held. London has its Haymarket; in Edinburgh we also have Lawnmarket and Grassmarket. Needless to say the -market bit is unstressed.

This is part of the more general 'rule' for stress in market names. If the preceding word is a name then Market can be stressed — as in Borough Market . If the preceding word is a description of what is (was) sold, then no stress.

David Crosbie said...

enitharmon

Sorry for naming you! My spellchecker decided your name was impossible.

Laura said...

Aven, I'd also add to your comment about grids that in Calgary (and, I assume, Edmonton), the first digits of the house number tell you the nearest cross street. So, if you live at 1234 5th St SW, you are at the corner of 12th Ave SW & 5th St SW. In various parts of the city, there are also in-between streets -- 1st St, 1A St, 2nd St, 2A St, etc. I'd say it makes it a lot easier to find things: I now live in another part of Canada, and there's no rhyme or reason to what streets are called! We have a couple streets that change names 4 times within the city for no reason... I'll take my grid system any day! :)

I second the suburban street repetition thing. If I lived in a neighborhood where the same name was used for a street, avenue, crescent, way, etc, I would never say "I live on Richmond", I would definitely include street/avenue/etc. However, if I were in an older part of the same city (where names are generally NOT reused), I would absolutely say "I live on Richmond".

John Burgess said...

To answer a question raised in the video, I've heard numbers such as "000" referred to, not as "triple zero," but "treble zero."

I'm just guessing, but I'd think "0000" would end up as "double-0, double-0."

Rosie said...

Whoever it is who decides the names of streets in Britain, some of them have strange whims. As for names which apparently lack a synonym for Street, at least Broadway has a similar meaning, but some streets lack anything remotely similar. In part of Chelmsford where the street names have a Dickens theme, there are Little Nell, Little Dorrit and Barnaby Rudge, each the complete name of the street.

What can cause confusion is when a new road is built, and buildings are demolished, and old roads cut in two, to make way for it. This means that, near it, there are pairs of roads with identical names. Combine that with differently-named roads joined end to end becoming in effect different stretches of the same road, and there's a recipe for confusion. Take this crossroads. The east-west street is Duke Street, except that its western end is Rainsford Road -- not the long Rainsford Road further west but a different one. The cross streets are Broomfield Road and Coval Lane, in each case a short street with the same name as a longer one nearby.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.73711,0.46568,17z

An exception to "one name per pathway": As the A1307 goes from NW to SE through Cambridge, it is named: Huntingdon Road, Castle St., Magdalene St., Bridge St., Sidney St., St. Andrew's St., Regent St., Hills Rd.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you definitely need to add the 'road', 'street', 'crescent' or whatever in the UK. I sent something to a friend addressed 'Cranborne Road' but it was returned to me, even though I had the correct postcode. It should have been 'Cranborne Close'.

I'm always fascinated by the number of digits in American door numbers! I'm not sure I've ever seen a door number with more than 3 digits in the UK. Roads (streets) must be so long in the US!

Tofu Sandwich said...

How about Western Road (Brighton) and Western Road (Hove) which intersect without any signs and where the numbering suddenly switch... leftover of the pre city status of Brighton and Hove. Hint: it changes at the Hove Heritage board opposite Brunswick Street West

Kate Bunting said...

In the district where I used to live there are Hill Square (on sloping ground) and Flat Square, where my house was; except that the sign just says "Square" and it's commonly referred to as "The Square". I regularly used to get mail for Hill Square and sometimes for The Square in another suburb.

Somewhat OT, but I've long been intrigued by the way the Paris Metro often names stations after two nearby streets but omitting the word "rue", resulting in surreal combinations such as "Sevres-Babylone".

Max Wheeler said...

Local usage in Oxford (England), not just uni, omits 'Street' from the names of the major highways. So High Street is 'The High', Broad Street is 'The Broad', Turl Street is 'The Turl', Cornmarket Street is 'The Corn(market)' (NB 'The' here), and then there's St. Aldates, St. Giles, St. Ebbes.

Do you know of 'Of Street' near Charing Cross, London? Streets were built on part of the Duke of Buckingham's estate, so there's Duke Street, Of Street, and Buckingham Street. Of Street runs between the two other, and if I remember right, has no actual premises opening onto it.

Debby said...

"Broadway" doesn't leave off the street/road/avenue designation. Two words were merged into one compound word. It's simply the Broad Way (with "way" being a street).

Nick Rowe said...

Nottingham's oldest Boulevards are the Victorian ones that cluster in the now less desirable parts of the inner city suburbs (Radford Blvd, Lenton Blvd, Gregory Blvd & Castle Blvd, although The Park residential area has retained its poshness). My commute to work takes me down Clifton Blvd, Middleton Blvd and Western Blvd which are slightly further out and more recently built (I guess 1920s-1960s).
Then there's the road in Hull that's simply called Boulevard (again, a Victorian creation).
The weirdest thing that started happening in the UK back in the 80s was the introduction of road names without any suffix at all (usually on new build housing developments). I once lived at 6 Hurlford in Woking and all my friends and family wanted to know "Hurlford what?"

Eloise said...

A lot of towns further North than Nottingham have some -gates in them (and a few other interesting endings). The most famous of them is almost certainly York, in part because it wasn't rebuilt after WWII I suspect, so we've got a city centre and surrounding area stretching quite some distance in some directions (Houlgate runs about 2.5 miles from the minster, I think that's the furthest out, and you can reach half a mile or more in all directions I think) before you hit a street, road or similar although there are a few squares (which aren't 4-sided of course) and places and the like. We've got a lot of -gates, the minster itself is on Petergate for example, but if you walk down Petergate and High Petergate, through Bootham Bar (which is a gate in the old walls) you go out onto Bootham, which is not a village but a major road (it's actually part of the A19). But we mostly have -gate endings, or, as where I live, just no ending at all.

And then when you get out to the Johnny-come-lately places, developed some time after the 10th Century and the decline of the Danelaw you start to see Streets and Roads and so on.

Ginger Yellow said...

Moving away from US and UK, I know St. Petersburg (Russia) numbered streets where the number refers to the *side* of the street, not the whole street. e.g. even streets are northbound and odd ones are southbound. Also, in rural parts of Russia, you might have a house number without a road name.

All bets are off in other countries. Japan (well, Tokyo definitely, can't say for certain about other cities), numbers according to the order in which houses were built on a given block (not street).

David Crosbie said...

Max Wheeler

So High Street is 'The High', Broad Street is 'The Broad', Turl Street is 'The Turl', Cornmarket Street is 'The Corn(market)' (NB 'The' here)

Hence the genitive couplet (the third one):

What is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a Motor Bus?
Yes, the smell and hideous hum
Indicat Motorem Bum!
Implet in the Corn and High (my emphasis)
Terror me Motoris Bi:

This was written when everyone in Oxford use the 'old pronunciation' of Latin. So bi rhymed with High. For this who like this sort of thing, the whole poem can be read here (among other places).

enitharmon said...

Max Wheeler:

Do you know of 'Of Street' near Charing Cross, London? Streets were built on part of the Duke of Buckingham's estate, so there's Duke Street, Of Street, and Buckingham Street. Of Street runs between the two other, and if I remember right, has no actual premises opening onto it.

It's better than that, or at least it was. Successive streets leading off Strand (no 'the') towards the river spelled out George Villiers Duke of Buckingham. Of Alley (not Of Street) ran between Duke Street and Buckingham Street. At some point some killjoy on Westminster City Council decided to rename it York Place, the name it bears today. George Street is no longer visible on the surface but remains as a service road underneath the rebuilt Charing Cross Station.

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

I expect plenty of visitors to Oxford have been confused by the fact that South Parade is parallel to North Parade (OK) but about a mile North of it (not OK).

enitharmon said...

Visitors to the Bloomsbury district of London may be flummoxed by the fairly short walk from Holborn Tube station to Euston where Southampton Row becomes Russell Square becomes Woburn Place becomes Tavistock Square becomes Upper Woburn Place becomes Eversholt Street without any obvious change in direction. (For those unable to cope with this I recommend turning right at Russell Square, proceeding along what is Guilford Street the whole way until reaching Lamb's Conduit Street where they will find the excellent Lamb public huse).

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

Edinburgh can be like that. If you walk from the centre on the A7 you start on North Bridge, which becomes South Bridge, which becomes Nicolson Street, which becomes St Patrick's Street, which becomes Clerk Street, which becomes South Clerk Street, which becomes Newington Street, which becomes Minto Street, all of these changes occurring along what has all the appearance of being a single street.

David Crosbie said...

Athel, if you start from the other end of Princes Street, it goes: Lothian Road, Earl Grey Street, Home Street, Leven Street, Gillespie Place, Bruntsfield Place, Morningside Road...

David L said...

The N-S-E-W distinctions in US street names are not always as perspicuous as one would hope. In northern Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington DC, there is a Glebe Road that runs more or less in a large semicircle, with the two ends abutting the river. The upper quadrant is N. Glebe and the lower S. Glebe; at the division between these two segments they indeed run approximately north and south.

However, by the time S. Glebe nears the river, it runs roughly east-west -- the bottom of the aforementioned semicircle. About a mile inland, another Glebe road splits off at right angles to S. Glebe, and is named W. Glebe, although it runs south because S. Glebe at this point is running east-west. W. Glebe then turns to the southeast and, when it crosses Commonwealth Ave, becomes E. Glebe. Finally, it turns to the east (at last!) before it runs into Route 1, at which point it is running parallel to S. Glebe, about half a mile to the north.

Got that?

Paul Dormer said...

There is a street in Blackheath in south east London called just The Glebe.

Other odd street types I know. In the town I grew up, Newton Aycliffe in Co. Durham, there is a Clarence Chare. In Darlington, a few miles south, there is a Post House Wynd

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

The best street name in York is Bad Bargain Lane! I don't know why it's called that as it's a perfectly ordinary surburban street, but there you go.... my then-future son-in-law lived there one year when he was a student.

@David Crosbie - thank you for the link to that poem; I have known the first four lines for simply ever, but didn't know the rest of it.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

And - sorry for spree-ing, but there appears to be no way of editing one's post - if you want to get muddled with the points of the compass, try the London Underground - the Piccadilly Line, especially. If you want to go North towards Cockfosters, it's west, and if you want to go North towards Uxbridge it's east.... and so on. And as I easily confuse east and west, I always have to stop and look to make sure I'm going in the right direction. At least the Victoria Line, which is the one I mostly use, is North and South, although it in fact ends up in East London, not North....

Anonymous said...

Comedian Doug Stanhope, while appearing on UK TV with Charlie Brooker, had a humorous take on the difference between US and UK street naming/numbering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7OlBdFIxbk

The bit about roads comes in near the end of the video, and being a comedian Doug does use vulgarity, so the video may not be appropriate for all work environments.

"Sure there are a lot of dumb people here [America], but you can afford to be dumb here, everything makes sense.

You're lost? Where are you, 77th Street? Go a block, you know what's next? 78th Street!"

Kirk Poore said...

In St Louis, Missouri, there is a road called Olive. It starts out in downtown and heads west as Olive Street. After disappearing for a mile or two, it pops back up as Olive Blvd. From there it heads west for 10 miles or so and disappears again for a while, and then pops up again for short final stretch with the name Olive Street Road.

By the way, Lynne, you need to take a sabbatical back over here. I saw the video, and you're totally going native with your accent!:)

enitharmon said...

Of course the Victoria Line between Euston and Kings Cross is Northbound while the Northern Line between Euston and Kings Cross is Southbound. It's probably quickler to walk, in which case head east along Euston Road...

Andy JS said...

John Burgess is right. People here in the UK often say "treble zero" or "treble oh" for 000. They don't usually say triple. Also it's common to say "double zero, zero". We wouldn't say it the other way round, for example "zero, double zero".

As I wrote above it's very common to say the number zero in the same way as the letter "O" because it's shorter to say. Maybe Americans don't do that. So it sounds like "oh" rather than using the word "zero".

Andy JS said...

To continue, I would usually say the number 055567 as follows: "oh treble five six seven". (I'm from Warwickshire in the West Midlands, UK).

Anonymous in New Jersey said...

Andy S wrote: As I wrote above it's very common to say the number zero in the same way as the letter "O" because it's shorter to say. Maybe Americans don't do that. So it sounds like "oh" rather than using the word "zero".

We most certainly do do that. At least, Americans who speak most of the regional variations I've encountered do; we do it for the same reason you do. Sure, we say "zero" sometimes, but "O" is more common when rattling off a series of digits.

– AiNJ

Dark Star in the Morning said...

We definitely do the "Oh" thing in my part of the US -- I say that when giving my zip code, rather than saying zero all the time. Zero would just sound clunky.

My city gives a name to a street, but then also tacks east and west onto part of it to indicate the ends. For example, there's St. Patrick Street, East St. Patrick Street, and West St. Patrick Street, with east and west often abbreviated as E. and W. The numbering changes, counting up in either direction from where the plain name changes to east. The first block of the plain name starts with numbers below 100, but the first block of the east starts above 100. Going west, the 100s are west of 1st Street, and so on, and I believe the numbers just keep counting up even after the street name adds West.

The only streets that change to an entirely different name are ones where two formerly separate streets have since been connected when an area has been rebuilt. For instance 5th Street turns into Haines Avenue, but they originally didn't connect, that section of town was redesigned a few years ago when they turned a large section into city park and in the process linked the two up by adding a long graceful curve as 5th Street climbs a slight rise.

Metro Denver has a section east of City Park and Colorado Blvd. where the north/south streets are named in alphabetical order as you travel east. It makes it really easy to navigate in that particular section; I used to have to find a friend's house there, in a large city I didn't know my way around in at all.

Nicholas said...

On the "oh" and triple/treble thing - Glenn Miller evidences the AmE usage in his piece "Pennsylvania 65000" (the phone number of a hotel). At various points the band calls out either "Pennsylvania six five thousand" or "Pennsylvania six five oh oh oh".

I think the BrE would be "six five triple oh". What do others think?

Kate Bunting said...

There are streets near where I now live in (Derby) called simply Riddings and Pingle (both dialect words meaning, I believe, a clearing and a small field).
I think one of the oddest street names is Wyle Cop, a main thoroughfare in Shrewsbury. I have no idea what that means.

David Crosbie said...

Nicholas

I think the BrE would be "six five triple oh". What do others think?

My early telephone-number memories are of the forties, some years after Miller died (though I think his band still existed). My home town had a single exchange that could handle five-figure numbers. London and some other cities had the relics of a system of local exchanges equivalent to Pennsylvania. You no longer had to ask an operator for that exchange — the telephone dial carried letters so that you could dial the first three letters. (Hence the play/film title Dial M for Murder). The US equivalent would have been dialling PEN instead of asking the operator for Pennsylvania.

Judging by the way I said five-figure numbers back then, I think I would have said 65000 as six five oh double-oh.

That said, numbers are now much more varied and we say them aloud far less often:
• We don't dictate them to operators all the time.
• It's no longer customary to answer the phone by giving your number.

So I don't think there are strong BrE conventions any more.

David Crosbie said...

Getting back to streets...

Western Boulevard, Nottingham was built long before the houses on it. It seems they could only guess how many buildings there would be in any given stretch, so as they planned and built up a new section they started numbers from a number that was just a guess as to how it would fit into the eventual inventory of addresses.

So we were number 563 — and yet I'm sure there weren't 562 addresses before us. They built a few council houses with numbers up to (I think) 575, but then nothing was built for long stretches of the Boulevard. I I remember rightly the next addresses were in the seven hundreds, if not higher.

We called it five six three, never five hundred and sixty-three

rosie said...

More London Tube confusion: if you're at Liverpool Street and want to go south to Tower Hill, it's Eastbound; If you want to go south-west to Embankment, that's Eastbound, too.

Nick Rowe: I once lived at 6 Hurlford in Woking and all my friends and family wanted to know "Hurlford what?"

Perhaps the people who live here create similar confusion.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@52.26498,-0.8208,18z
Though, seeing that the street leading up to it is Larkrise, what better name could it have? :)

David Crosbie said...

The Northbound~Southboundand Eastbound~Westbound designations of platforms on the London Underground may not be 100% accurate, but it makes locating the right platform much easier than in the stations of other metros I have known.

Paris, St Petersburg, Moscow, Minsk and, I'd say, many, many more require you to recognise the at least one of the two stations at opposite ends of the line in question.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I have always found the Paris system much, much easier to use!

Boris Zakharin said...

In southwest New Jersey, there is a road called "Kings Highway", which is by no means a highway by modern standards, but is a metaphorical main street of several towns. It sporadically picks up directional prefixes or suffixes, but mostly doesn't have them in the following order going southwest no northeast: West, South, North, East. Luckily, except for the last one, which is an old alignment, nobody knows or cares about the directionals.

A similar situation exists on a much longer Black Horse Pike which, Northwest to Southeast is East, North, South, North, South, North, South, North, South, East, North, South, East. Notice no West anywhere and the Northwest segment has an East prefix.

And White Horse Pike (parallel) is North, South, North, South, North, South, West, South, North, South, North, South, North, West, East, North. Notice that the southeastern segment has a North prefix. I am guessing that Atlantic City renamed the former South portion to Absecon Blvd at some point

The directions are not syncronized nor do they change in the same places.

Christian Johnson said...

My home town of Seattle follows a New York-style grid, in which everything that runs east-west is, in theory, a "street," and everything that runs north-south is an "avenue," with downtown twisted diagonally to accommodate a harborline that, inconveniently, could not be persuaded to form a nice, straight north-south line. (I'm surprised the city didn't try; Seattle is known for misbegotten public-works projects, the misbegottenest of which was probably the Denny Hill regrade. It sluiced an entire hill away, leaving a slum behind.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Street names. So, one of the more prominent roads outside of downtown in University Way by the University of Washington campus. But University Way runs north-south, and by numbering scheme really ought to be 14th Avenue. So it's universally known as The Ave. Hum, the link indicates that it actually *was* 14th Avenue, briefly, which I'd never known.

What I do love about Right and Proper Rectilineal cities is the predictability of addresses. So, 4027 NE 95th St, Seattle, means that the house is located on 95 Street NE between 40th and 41st Avenues - probably about mid-block, counting from the city center, although possibly nearer 41st Ave if the lots are large. And, famously, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC is located at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and 16th St, NW.

It drove me batty when I moved to New York and discovered that such cartesian regularity applies only to numbered streets, not avenues, all of which have somewhat different starting points and therefore different cross streets for that coveted address of "1 X Avenue." (Addresses for streets are calculated by distance east or west of 5th Avenue -- so 250 West 17th Street is between the second and third avenues west of 5th, i.e. between 7th and 8th Avenues. East is slightly wonky because the city added Madison and Lexington Avenues late, after the numbering system was already in place; it helps to know that they are really fourth-and-a-halfth and third-and-a-halfth avenues, respectively.)

There used to be little charts with formulas for each avenue to convert an address into the closest cross street ("drop the last digit, divide in half, and add 27") but in the era of google maps these are thankfully irrelevant. But I know I would love to see a world in which many New York avenues had *no* "1 X Avenue" address anymore, and instead simply renumbered according to cross street, as is Right and Proper In This World. 1 Park Avenue would become 3300 Park Ave, and life would be good.

richardelguru said...

Down here in Dallas you can live on the South side of East Northwest Highway, but only if you like to be confused.

biochemist said...

In Scotland we lived on X Road, near X Drive, X Street and X Crescent - someone didn't know their own address so we had a taxi, an ambulance, mail and finally a translator destined for the same number on X Drive. Later we were amused to find ourselves on Braeside, in a London borough. The local builder must have been Scottish because the nearby suburban roads were Overbrae and Highland Croft. The first translates as 'Hillside', the second as 'top of the hill' - but the third was a group of 1930s semi-detached houses! There was no 'Netherbrae' - bottom of the hill.
Streets in the northern -gate format include Overgate, Nethergate (up and down the town of Dundee), Boroughgate (Appleby in Westmoreland), Fengate, and Hungate (which in Aylsham, Norfolk, refers to hounds, not Huns).
Now in Devon, I live in a farmhouse called Y Town, where the -town or -ton suffix refers to a settlement. There are several old barns that may just have been inhabited 250 years ago. The field behind is known as Barn Close, hence the use of this word for a street when houses were built on former farm land. Glebe is similar: a church field I believe. The Princesshayes shopping area in Exeter uses the -hayes suffix, which I take to be another farm-related word, used for streets and for farms still.
In the UK, we do refer to The Royal Oak or the Dog and Duck, and expect the hearer to know it is a pub. Hotels also get the same treatment - Claridge's, the Ritz - but I am not clear whether this is only for the most famous establishments.

Biochemist said...

Oops, I've just been to Exeter and of course the streets are Southernhay, Northernhay, and the Princesshay centre. Some local farms and a tree nursery are X-Hayes.

Roberta Davies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberta Davies said...

The road I live on is bent at a right angle. Attached to it at the angle is a road of a totally different name, but it follows the line of my road, so the overall effect is of a single long road with a cross-street.

............................................| also my road
............................................|
___________________|______________________
my road.................................... totally different road

At that corner, the short bent-up part of the road, for some reason, has a HUGE eye-catching sign. "Different road" has a small sign elsewhere, and the main part of my road isn't signed at all.

Therefore, if you're unfamiliar with the area and are driving along "different road" looking for my address, you're guaranteed to see that sign and turn the corner. We're used to getting baffled phone calls from delivery men who've done exactly that. We're also used to reassuring them that they're not the least bit stupid, everybody does the same thing.

Just for giggles, my road is actually called X Lane, although it's a fairly main road and nothing at all like a lane. The other road is called Y Crescent, although it's not remotely crescent-shaped.

Anonymous said...

I work in London*, and in common with some posters above, a colleague of mine once realised too late that the US tourists he'd just spent ages directing all the way to Gloucester might have meant Gloucester Road (tube station) instead...

(* Don't make me say 'London, England', or I'll cry.)

Tia said...

And in our town (in England), we have a South Avenue which is actually circular! It also has even numbers only up to around 20 - very common to see confused youth having been sent on a wild goose chase to find number 1...

Iain Mac Eochagáin said...

About the same street with an East or West suffix: there is a certain logic to this. In Dublin at least, and probably in the UK too, two streets with the same name but with directional prefixes are on opposite sides of town (usually of the River Liffey in Dublin's case); two streets with same name but with directional suffixes are two parts of the same street. To wit North King Street on the Northside and South King Street on the Southside; Collins Ave. W. and Collins Ave. E., both on the Northside (although not in the city centre; Upper and Lower are far more common a designator of stages of the street in town, with Lower being closer to the river). I used to live on a North Brunswick St. S. Brunswick Street exists any more and that it has been renamed as Pearse Street. Nonetheless, North Brunswick Street remains.

KM said...

Actually I've read that US house numbering was instituted by the British not too long before the Revolutionary War.

It is next to useless today. Total chaos; one is not obliged to post a house number at all, let alone put it in a consistent place. I've often wondered how many accidents are caused by drivers vainly trying to find house numbers. Then there is the mall problem: usually a mall has its own number, which may or may not be posted. Right now it's almost as bad as Tokyo in the old days.

Without GPS, where would we be?

Daniel Macken said...

Near to where I grew up in London there are a few examples of roads being split:

-Harlington Road East/Harlington Road West
-Hampton Road East/Hampton Road West (in effect the same street as Harlington Road, seperated by a stretch of 'Uxbridge Road', as the road changes angle slightly)
-Wellington Road North/Wellington Road South

Each time there is a major junction which seperates the North and South or East and West but the roads aren't parallel so they aren't all changed by a specific street like in a grid system. Also, in speech Wellington Road is just 'Wellington Road', and the Harlington Road is 'the Harlington Road'. People do however refer to 'Hampton Road East/West', maybe because the two are seperated by Apex Corner, a fairly large roundabout with the A316 overhead.

I've noticed my Grandad not using the suffix when referring to very local roads in the immediate vicinity of where we live, particularly with one road. He wouldn't do that with the main roads though. Whether it's because he's Irish or whether it's something that he started doing himself for some reason I don't know. I do know that I associate naming streets as Upper or Lower with Ireland, but I don't think I've heard other Irish people dropping the suffixes but I haven't asked about it either.

naath said...

Cambridge is plagued with "Cambridge Road, $Village" which are mostly continuations of "$Village Road, Cambridge". It's fun (not fun) to observe taxi drivers get hopelessly confused. And lots of roads that sort of randomly change name somewhere... not quite obvious because there aren't any signs saying where (the road I work on is Downing Street at one end and Pembroke Street at the other). Odds and evens are indeed often confusingly located, some roads near my house have only one or only the other, which helps when you get to where they join up at the "back" and can only tell *where that is* because the numbers change from odd to even...

Often (not always) one finds roads with names of a similar nature all together, especially in recently (er, late 20th century) built estates. So for instance where my parents live all the roads/streets/etc are named for characters in Dickens novels. That can let you sometimes guess "oh, that road is probably near hear"

rkelleher said...

In Melbourne there is a major road called "High Street Road", which is a continuation of High Street.

Running off that particular High St is a street shaped like a "Y" called.... Y St.

We also have quite a few "Parades" ie Queens Parade, Wellington Parade etc as names of streets/roads.

lynneguist said...

We've got that in Brighton too. There's a Dyke Road Avenue, which splits from Dyke Road, and Richmond Parade, Grand Parade and Marine Parade.

I've just been looking at Google Maps of my home town in New York State and notice we do have a couple of same-name/two-roads situations--e.g. Driving Park Avenue continues on from Driving Park Circle. But that's the kind of situation where we wouldn't say things like 'she lives on Driving Park'.

Iain Mac Eochagáin said...

Daniel Macken, you raise an interesting point which I don't think has come up in the comments so far, although I do feel it has been touched on elsewhere on Lynne's blog: "the Harlington Road" vs. "Wellington Road". Presumably the "the" is there because Harlington is the place said Road leads to. This is very British, isn't it? We do this in Ireland, too (see the numerous Dublin Roads), but not to the same extent as in the UK (I think). What I'm interested in is when these roads lose their articles. Iris Murdoch in "An Unofficial Rose" refers to "the Brompton Road", but as far as I can tell Brompton is no longer an independent place but a part of London. Do people still say "the Brompton Road"? Similarly, in "The Red and the Green" she mentions "the Drumcondra Road" in Dublin, which I think is rarer than "Drumcondra Road" and possibly dying out. The road runs through, not to, Drumcondra. Has anybody studied this? Are roads losing their articles in the UK as fast as they are in Ireland, if at all?

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

Surprising as it might seem (given that I've never been to Melbourne and don't know anyone who lives there), I did know that there is a Y street there (more exactly in Ashburton, which I remember because I was born in a different Ashburton), that it is shaped like a Y and that 1 Y Street is a police station. I came by this arcane piece of knowledge by reading Chapter 21 of "The Chemist's English" by Robert Schoenfeld, who once lived in Melbourne. He was discussing whether very short names are better than very long ones, saying that "When it comes to ordering a freezer on easy terms, the man from Y Street is likely to have his application for credit before the man from Old Diamond Creek Road is even half-way through his first form." (There is also an Old Diamond Creek Road in Melbourne; I just checked). You might find it hard to believe that a book about chemical nomenclature could have you laughing out loud, but Schoenfeld manages it in almost every chapter.

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

Sorry, I left out the word "approved" after "credit".

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

If you drive through Fremont, California, along 680 you'll find (or you would have a few years ago, the last time I did that) that there are two exits called "Mission Blvd" with nothing to indicate that they are in two different places quite far from one another. If you take the wrong one (as I did, the instructions just saying "exit on Mission Blvd") you'll have a problem figuring out why the rest of the instructions make no sense.

Anonymous said...

@ Dark Star in the Morning: Regarding your comment about naming streets in alphabetical order -- I'm in Iowa, with lots of small towns in very rural areas. Many of those towns name rural gravel roads in alpha order once you leave city limits, which is also very helpful. If you're aware of the system that originally placed a gravel road at every mile and you happen to be in area where disuse/growth/topography hasn't supplanted that system, you can even calculate how far it is from Ivy Ave. to Sumac Ave.

Bronwyn said...

In Dunedin, New Zealand, we have a Canongate and a Highgate. They were named by homesick Scottish settlers, and I think Dunedin is the only place in New Zealand that has this sort of street-type-less street name. Needless to say, no canons were ever drawn down Canongate (it would be bloody difficult, being very steep and twisty) and no gates ever existed on them.
We also have Leith St, which starts off in a perfectly normal way, then stops at the university campus. After a building or two and across the Water of Leith, Leith Walk exists for a short stretch, then Leith St continues until it comes to a T intersection with Dundas St. Almost straight across Dundas St with a slight jog right is Gore Place, but if you turn left and re-cross the Water of Leith, then turn right, you will again be on Leith St. It is very confusing indeed.

empty said...

After reading your post it occurred to me that I am not quite sure, in the case of several thoroughfares around our home (in Massachusetts), whether they are called road, street, avenue, or something else -- because my wife and I ordinarily refer to them familiarly by first name. I became curious, especially about a very familiar one called Bellevue. As I drove home I paid lots of attention to the signs on the corners, the styles of lettering that vary from town to town and sometimes within a town if a change has been made. I thought Bellevue was a road, and when I got to our neighborhood this was confirmed by several street signs -- but the first one I saw simply said BELLEVUE! I have no idea why. I haven't seen any other road/street/etc with its last name omitted, and it's not like there wasn't enough room.

Also, our neighborhood has a Stoneleigh Circle that is almost perfectly straight.

Anonymous said...

While the English never do seem to lop off a "Street" or "Avenue" or "Lane," without exception (maybe a Broadway now and then) American cities will at least have suffixes. But in London there's a Cheapside, Aldermanbury, Little Britain, St Martin's-le-Grand, Cornhill, Austin Friars, Eastcheap, Old Bailey, Strand and Aldwych all in one district alone, none of which have suffixes.

Now who has the stranger naming convention?

Kate Bunting said...

Bronwyn may not be aware that the -gate part of street names often means "street". I looked up "Canongate Edinburgh" in Wikipedia and found
"Canongate is named after the canons of Holyrood Abbey and the Scots word gait meaning "way"."
In the parts of England that were once under Viking rule, the "gate" part comes from the Scandinavian word for a street. (Scots dialect has many words with Scandinavian roots.)

Andy JS said...

"Now who has the stranger naming convention?"

The whole point about the UK road naming system is that there are no conventions.

Damyon T. Verbo said...

As a native Philadelphian I was raised on the grid. North/south streets numbered, east/west streets named. Even numbered streets, east of Broad St. one way traffic moving southbound, odd numbered streets moving northbound. Broad St taking the place of 14th St. West of Broad (St) even numbered streets with one way traffic moving northbound and odd numbered streets traffic moving southbound. This is all true within the original old city designed by Thomas Holme in 1683.
The buildings are numbered starting at Water St. (first street west of Delaware river) with the number 1 on the north side of the street continuing with all odd numbers on the north side and starting with 2 on the south side with all even numbers. Very predictable, rational fairly easy to understand.

See map here http://www.philageohistory.org/rdic-images/view-image.cfm/FF%2DMaps%5FHolme%5FPhila1
A bit of history here http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/penn/pnplan.html
More insight on Philadelphia street planning here http://philadelphia2050.blogspot.com/2011/06/understanding-grid.html

flatlander said...

My in-laws (U.S.) live on a dead-end rural road with four houses, yet their house number has five digits!

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

Many years ago (1961, I think) I spent the night in Fort St John (BC), and was struck by the fact that it was full of addresses like 10415 100th Street despite being a very small place. Even today it has only 18609 inhabitants, and it certainly had fewer then, probably about 3000. No doubt they were planning for a glorious future.

flatlander said...

I used to live on X Court, but at some point in time either Mapquest or the phone book mispublished it as X Lane. After that EVERYTHING (mail, packages, pizza, driving directions) came addressed to X Lane except official government documents. My deed and property taxes were for X Court, but my mortgage and insurance were for X Lane. The green sign at the end of the street said X Court, but all online maps said X Lane. It didn't seem to make a bit of difference.

Dru said...

UK towns aren't usually laid out on a grid pattern. The only one I can think of is the middle of Salisbury. It was laid out afresh when the town moved about 3 miles in the early 1200s, but the rest that has been built since doesn't follow that scheme. It's possible Middlesborough may be, but it's many years since I was last there. And a few bits of towns are laid out formally when they were built as planned schemes. Edinburgh New Town is a bit like that, but the Old Town makes up for it by being a maze of alleys and flights of steps.

Most towns just happened. Quite often if you look at a map, there is a centre and streets etc locate themselves by reference to geographical features like a river, bridges and the main roads to other places.

Being developed later, do American towns have a market place? And is there a designated market day with stalls etc and in some cases still auctions for animals?

Paul Dormer said...

They started building Newton Aycliffe, the town I used to live in, in 1947 and there is no sign of a grid pattern in that. It's more of a trefoil. To the east is a main road and to the south an industrial estate that had been an ordnance factory during the war. So there was a loop of road to the west of the main road, the southern end of the loop going through the estate, and a third road heading north east. Where these three roads met was the town centre - still being developed when we moved there at the end of 1957.

The rest of the town grew out from these three roads higgledy-piggledy.

Anonymous said...

Can you answer this question of grammar, please? Would it (in British usage) be “live at a posh postcode in Surrey” or “live in a posh postcode in Surrey”?
Thank you!

Kate Bunting said...

I've never, as far as I can remember, heard anyone speak of living "in" a postcode.

Paul Dormer said...

I think rather it would be "They have a posh post code if Surrey," if said at all. More likely, you'd say they live in a posh part of Surrey. (I live in Surrey. I don't know if it's considered a posh part.)

Nicholas said...

Nor indeed living "at" a postcode. I dont think anyone would use postcode in this context. And using "posh" sounds rather Enid Blyton.

David Crosbie said...

Postcodes as areas are too small to characterise that way.

When we used larger postal areas it made sense to say in West One, in Liverpool Eight. I suppose that if a so-called 'Millionaire's Row' had its addresses contained within a small postcode, then we might talk about being in it, but the why not just say in Millionaire's Row?

When we speak of a postcode lottery, it's generally the start of the postcode we're thinking of: the letter (or two) plus number to the left of the space.

This will probably sound crazy to American readers, so I'll try to explain. A postcodes is assigned to a manageably small number of addresses. Mail for that postcode fits easily into a postie's bag (We used to say postman.) On many websites, if you enter a postcode, a short pop-up menu will invite you to select the actual address. There are two postcodes for the short street that I live on.

Dru said...

I agree with Paul Dormer. It's curious. One can say 'I live at a good address .... '. One could say 'I have a good address'. I don't think one can say 'I live in a good address', though one does say I live 'in' rather than 'at' a terraced house. One is not likely to say 'I live at' or 'in' a postcode. I think it's because one's address describes where one lives, which is an important statement. The postcode is not the address. It is ancillary to the address.

There's an exception, though, which is that where part of the postcode describes an area of a city, e.g. London NW1, one might say 'I live in NW1'. The same applies in some other large cities where the first part of the code goes with an area. It is much less likely to apply to codes outside towns that cover less discrete areas.

Iain Mac Eochagáin said...

In Ireland we only have postcodes in Dublin, and I am sure almost everyone would say "to live IN a postcode". The difference with the UK is it's a very simple system with big postcode areas - square miles as opposed to one side of a street.

lynneguist said...

People do talk about post codes as places in certain contexts. For instance, some decisions about 'widening participation' (from underrepresented demographic groups) in universities are based on which postcode people live in ('in' being the operative preposition). I think in these cases they're really only considering the first half of the postcode, which says which town or part-of-town you live in. There are millions of google hits for 'in a * postcode', including 347 for 'in a posh postcode' and five for 'in a WP postcode' (WP='widening participation).

People also say things like "I live in BN1" if they live in a postcode that has some kind of reputation. (E.g. here's one about central Brighton I found: "I live in BN1 so I claim the prize of being the snob in our family.")

David Crosbie said...

Googling for information on our own postcode, I discovered that several sites offer analyses for marketing purposes.

In our case, I think the first half covers too disparate an area. It seems to include Edinburgh Castle and a lot of streets where the purchasing power and lifestyle would be very different.

The most useful area for narrowly-targetted marketing would seem to be the first half plus the initial number of the second half.

David Crosbie said...

Dru

Edinburgh New Town is a bit like that, but the Old Town makes up for it by being a maze of alleys and flights of steps.

The core of the New Town is composed of two big squares both called Square and a number of streets, all called Street, with the proviso that some streets have back-door access thoroughfares called Lane, which once housed stables. In other cities they'd be called Mews.

(Edinburgh does have streets that were originally like an English lane; they're called Loan.)

The names of these squares and streets (and their lanes) were highly political at a time when the Union of Parliaments was new and some were referring to Scotland as 'North Britain'.

Streets: George, Queen's, Prince's, Hannover (the royal family name), Frederick (the Prince of Wales who never lived to be King), Castle, Rose, Thistle

Squares: St Andrew the patron saint of Scotland; the other was going to be St George, but the Queen-Consort thought that her husband George had had enough named after (for) him, so it became Charlotte

As for the Old Town, those alleys have the street name Close and of those flights of stairs have the street name Stair.

Paul Dormer said...

On post codes. My post code starts GU2, which covers mostly the north-west corner of the town of Guildford in Surrey. (And Guildford is a town, not a city. The differences between the US and the UK uses of the word city is a whole other ball game.)

Back in the nineties I was working with a database provided by the post office that linked post codes to coordinates used by the Ordnance Survey. (This was in the days before such information was freely available on the internet.) I tried mapping the area of the GU2 post code and found that it did indeed correspond to north-west Guildford, apart from one 100 metre square that seemed to be a car park in the town of Godalming, several miles away. Never worked out why that was in GU2. Could have been a mistake in the database, I suppose.

SimonB said...

Amused by the idea of the sea having "pleasantly few thoroughfare names", noting that the French cannot bring themselves to refer to it as The English Channel. I think they're being a little petty, as in the street name 'Petty France' which leads off Buckingham Gate, (BrE) in London.

Buckingham Street (Brighton) doesn't change its name half way through, it runs between Upper Gloucester Road and Guildford Road. Clifton Street runs between Guildford Road and Buckingham Place. It's a question of what you expect and how you think.

If you type Buckingham Place into Google Maps, and select the option 'Buckingham Place, London', it assumes you mean Buckingham Palace, which doesn't run anywhere, and is over a mile from Buckingham Street, but rather closer to Buckingham Gate, and, Petty France. Busking on either of these streets may attract the attention of the police.

When New York is two thousand years old, I imagine its streets will have become less logically named as well.

In British English, 'Street' has slightly more 'urban' connotations than 'Road', which is used more for thoroughfares out of town and/or is more residential in nature. Unless, of course, you are referring to High Street in Cumbria, which is a small mountain, or Street in Somerset, which is a small town.

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

The country that takes the grid system to its logical extreme is certainly Colombia, where every urban area from Bogotá down to the smallest village has numbered calles running in parallel, and numbered carreras perpendicular to them, and buildings have numbers in which the beginning tells you the block and the end tells you the building.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

@Paul Dormer

Of course "Petty France" is a corruption of "Petit France", or more accurately "Petite France", meaning Little France.

Talking of which, a part of Patching Village, in West Sussex, is known as France - France Cottages, France Lane, etc. And the Dower House of Arundel Castle is known as "The Dover". So it is - if you have sufficient energy and/or motivation - perfectly possible to walk from Dover to France.

Paul Dormer said...

@Mrs R

That wasn't me, it was Simon.

David Crosbie said...

Lynne
People also say things like "I live in BN1" if they live in a postcode that has some kind of reputation.

Paul Dormer
My post code starts GU2, which covers mostly the north-west corner of the town of Guildford

Until I started googling postcodes, I didn't realise that there's a terminology that makes things much clearer.

Both BN1 and GU2 not, strictly speaking, postcodes. But there's a precise term for them postcode districts.

GU1, GU2, GU3, GU4, GU5 are situated within the post town of Guildford, while BN1, BN2 are in the post town of Brighton.

GU and BN are postcode areas comprising over a dozen post towns

GUGuildford, Cranleigh, Godlaming, etc
BN Brighton, Hove, Lewes etc.

If we say I live in GU2 or BN1, it's because we say
I live in Guildford/Brighton
or
I live in the GU/BN postal area
or
I live in the GU2 /BN 1postal district.

We only use at when the location is a point in a progression. For example
• a train stop/coach stop (or change) atGuildford/Brighton (along the rout)
• an aircraft landing or stopover or change at Guildford/Brighton (itinerary)
• armies assembling. disbanding, meeting, clashing etc at Guildford/Brighton (in some hypothetical war)

By the same token we might say
GU2 is quite posh and GU3 and GU4 are OK. The rot sets in at GU5
BN1 is desirable but it starts to tail off at BN2 (points in ordered lists)

As tools to estimate property values, incidence of criminality, affluence of residents etc, I would expect too much of postcode areas, and I'd be a bit wary of postcode districts. What really narrows down a search for 'posh' locations is the postcode sector — comprising the letter(s) & number for the postcode district followed by the number after the space.

You American readers miss all this. You can't get all that marketing information at the click of a mouse from a zip code. But then your junk mailers don't have the same ease of targeting and generally annoying you.

David Crosbie said...

SimonB

In British English, 'Street' has slightly more 'urban' connotations than 'Road', which is used more for thoroughfares out of town and/or is more residential in nature.

As well as your exceptions, there's Wattling Street, Ermine Street, Dere Street, Akeman Street etc — names originally given by the Anglo-Saxons to the remains of Roman roads.

David Crosbie said...

Paul Dormer, the most helpful postcode site I've found, Dougla.com, gives a map of GU2 with just one outlier:

Postcode: GU2 7JD No longer in use
Approx address: Westwood Lane, Guildford, Surrey GU3, UK
Local places Nothing here:-(

Jane Elizabeth said...

The United States Postal Service provides these interesting facts about street names, zip codes, mail delivery methods, etc.
https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-facts/fun-facts.htm

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...


Paul Dormer wrote:
That wasn't me, it was Simon. Oops! Apologies.

David Crosbie wrote:
We only use at when the location is a point in a progression. For example
• a train stop/coach stop (or change) atGuildford/Brighton (along the route)
(Other examples snipped).

Yes, but it is not so very long that people said they lived at Brighton or at Guildford - if you read, for instance, Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown or A E W Mason, or any similar author of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, they all lived and stayed "at" places, rather than "in" them, as we now do.

I don't know when that changed, but I do wonder why....

David Crosbie said...

Mrs Redboots

It feels like an age since at Brighton or at Guildford could sound like anything other than a non-native-speaker error. I would certainly never accept it from any of my students.

The OED entry for at — not revised since 1885 — shows signs of decline of the use

on the Isle of Wight, on Inchkeith, at St. Helena, at Malta, at the English Lakes, at the Cape. Formerly used more widely: at Ireland, at London.

The most recent quote is, not surprisingly, from 1885, but it's not exactly typical

Did he graduate at Oxford or Cambridge?

It only sounds acceptable because it's graduate at a university, just as we still say study.

Before that, the most recent quote is

1849 T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. II. 120 The Parliament met at Edinburgh.

It will be interesting to see the eventual OED revision for at.

David Crosbie said...

Annabel. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language discusses at vs in for geographical territories. The general principle they observe is that the speaker's point of view may be of the place as an area or as a point. But the point of view may be constrained by size.

QUOTE
In is used for sizeable territories such as:

continents, countries:...in Asia, in China
provinces, counties:.....in British Columbia, in Cheshire
city districts.................in Brooklyn, in Hampstead

But for towns, village, etc, either at or in is appropriate, according to point of view: at/in Stratford-upon-Avon. A very large city (such as New York, London, or Tokyo) is generally treated as an area:

He works in London, but lives in the country.
UNQUOTE

This accords with the OED's 1885 observation that at London was used 'formerly more widely'.

Yes, I admit that I see little wrong with There's a famous Shakespeare theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. However, I personally can't bring myself to say or accept He lives at Stratford-Upon-Avon. I just can't adopt that point of view.

In a couple of other respects, CGEL supports points I made above.

QUOTE
But even a large city may be treated as a point on the map if global distances are in mind:

Our plane refuelled at London on its way from New York to Moscow.

Note the following difference between at and in:

She's at Oxford ['She's a student at Oxford University.]
She's in Oxford ['She's staying in the city of Oxford.]
UNQUOTE

Dru said...

Likewise, 'he spent the weekend at Glastonbury' i.e. the Festival.

'He spent the weekend in Glastonbury', i.e. the town.

Kate Bunting said...

Having always been interested in words, I remember noticing when I was learning the piano as a child that the books of Associated Board exam pieces used to say, for instance "W.A. Mozart: born at Salzburg 1756, died in Vienna 1791". i.e. they made a distinction between cities and smaller places.

Emilio Márquez said...

Jane Elizabeth:

Great page! My favourite Post Office Fun Facts are these:

• Longest Main Street — the longest Main Street in America is located in Island Park, ID (83429) — it’s 33 miles long.

• The Postal Service moves mail using planes, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, helicopters, subways, float planes, hovercraft, mules, bicycles and feet.

biochemist said...

David Crosbie - there is a picture of Middleton Boulevard, Nottingham, in the most recent issue of the BBC 'Who do you think you are?' magazine - showing children playing on the central reservation in the 1940s - no vehicles are visible; I expect there are cars parked all along nowadays.

There is a village called Street in Somerset - the name implies Roman occupation, as does X-chester (castle or fort) and -coln (colonia, as in Lincoln). The town of Chester-le-Street has a double whammy here!

Very old cities, such as London, have addresses that reflect 2000 years of history. So, Austin Friars was an old monastic holding that was gradually broken up in the 16th century - Thomas Cromwell had a house in the grounds. There used to be many shops and workshops connected with the book trade in the church yard around St Paul's Cathedral - now there is a street with that name. In the old days, there were so few people that one could just go to Austin Friars and ask for Cromwell's house, so street addresses were superfluous.

In connection with my research into family history, I was recently looking at a street directory for Auckland, New Zealand, in 1902. It didn't seem that houses were numbered in those days, either, but names appeared to be listed in the order of their position from one intersection to the next. It can't have been long before the Post Office asked the town to set up a numbering system, as the city became more densely populated.

David Crosbie said...

biochemist

We didn't need to play on the central reservation of Western Boulevard because it was a stone's throw from Melbourne Park. Besides, back in the forties it was safe to play in the side-streets off the Boulevard.

I remember something that probably couldn't happen nowadays: large crowds filling the central reservation to wave at the car carrying the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh driving to open the Royal Show. Not a policeman in sight, as far as I can remember.

Yes Edinburgh also has its share of history-reflecting odd street names. One is simple called Sciennes (pronounced like sheens) The spelling reflects some ancient pronunciation of Catherine of Sienna's, she being saint of a convent that gave it's name to the location. In modern times the area became built up with streets bearing names like Sciennes Road, Sciennes Place, Sciennes House Place, Sciennes Hill Place, Sciennes Gardens, Sciennes Street East (but no Sciennes Street West. Some of these are off a street called Causewayside, because that's what it used to be, and further along it's crossed by streets with the old names of East and West Crosscauseway.

South of Edinburgh we had our own Petty France (an area,though, not a street) —said to be a favourite spot of French-speaking Mary Queen of Scots when she resided in a nearby-ish palace, and the site of a tree she was believed to have planted. Eventually, it was translated into Little France and now houses Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Diane Benjamin said...

@David Crosbie & biochemist
What on earth is a "central reservation," please? From context, I would guess it to be what we would call in AmE a "median strip" in the middle of a road, or perhaps a common area or square in a town.

Possible DOTD?

David Crosbie said...

Diane Benjamin (my spellchecker is determined to call you Bogeyman!)

Hopefully this link will take you to a Google Earth picture of near where I grew up — with the central reservation visible between the two carriageways.

Bottom to top on the left hand carriageway, the cars drive on the left side. Top to bottom they drive on the right hand carriageway, also on the left side.

Dark Star in the Morning said...

I started writing a couple days ago, then got interrupted, and then couldn't get it to post yesterday. In the mean time the conversation has veered off in other directions, so I’m responding things far earlier in comments.

The east side of our small city is fairly gridlike, the west side runs up against foothills of a smallish mountain range and so the terrain interferes with laying out grids. I've found that terrain matters in cities in America, we try for grids, but the land interferes with our plans.

I read somewhere long ago that one of the reasons cities in Europe developed in non-gridlike layouts was it's easier to defend a city or town when you have narrow, non-aligned streets. Consider the barricading of the streets in Les Mis, and the later clearing of wholesale districts in Paris to put up the Haussmann blocks and grand boulevards, the purpose of which was so it would be much easier to move guards around to suppress rioting, and much harder for mobs to block the streets. In the same way it's easier to barricade a town against an invading force and harder for the invaders to conquer a city in street to street fighting.

@Anonymous who mentioned Iowa rural roads -- We do have roads in the rural areas that follow the section lines on the mile, it's just that we don't have them every mile, we're too sparsely populated out here. But if you are traveling down a gravel road our connecting roads usually meet up with it at a right angle on a section line, or occasionally will change from north/south to east/west at a section line, which are laid out on the mile, very gridlike.

Section lines are specific to the US, and only to most, but not all of the states. (I had to look this up.) For more than you probably wanted to know about them, see The Public Land Survey System.

@naath I believe your built estates are developments, or sometimes subdivisions, and we have that same thing (at least in my town) of chunks of streets named for similar things. My town has a section of saints, of states, of cities (in a different part of town than the states), of American presidents, a couple with trees, one with WW2 generals which also includes Lindbergh, Pearl Harbor and Midway (which places it squarely as postwar housing) and a section outside the city limits built during the space race with names of rockets (Saturn), missions (Mercury, Gemini) and planets (Pluto).

@Dru – We don’t have market days, or a market place per se, in the way you describe in the US, at least not anywhere that I know of. We do have farmers' markets where people can sell their garden produce, and those tend to set up in a specific location and on specific days of the week. But farmer’s markets, at least in my part of the country are a relatively new thing, our local one started in 1989 with just a few booths and has grown repeatedly, having to change locations a number of times in the process. It's open from July through the fall, three days a week, and currently held in a city park. No animals are for sale, just produce, along with some flowers, jams and jellies and suchlike. Animal auctions, at least around here, take place at livestock sale barns and are a different kind of thing entirely, completely unrelated.

Dark Star in the Morning said...

I should say "your built estates are our developments, or subdivisions" -- didn't mean to leave out a word there..... Apologies.

Dru said...

Dark Star, how you defend a walled town, particularly once attacking troops break through the walls, may well be a factor, but it's more fundamental than that. Europe wasn't newly settled in the recent past. It hasn't been laid out. So it's not really the best way of looking at this to say 'one of the reasons cities in Europe developed in non-gridlike layouts'. It's more that by the stage in history when anyone might have talked of developing a layout or started thinking about how one would lay out a town if one started from scratch, the towns had already been there for centuries. Although there is a period around 500 when it is possible London was unoccupied, there are still features of the street plan which coincide with how Roman London was. After the Great Fire (1666) there were proposals to redesign the whole city, but while the clever-clevers argued, the people got in first and rebuilt on their own plots.

Of course, there has been lots of urban expansion in the last two centuries, but it has had to fit in with what was already there, even in many cases with the field boundaries of those farmers that were willing to sell. Likewise, in much of southern and eastern England, there was a big programme of reallocation of farmland around 1800, but even that had to fit in with what was already there, and making sure everyone got the same number of acres that they had had before.

They knew how to make maps by then, but as a general principle, the whole of Europe was being farmed long before there were surveyors.

David Crosbie said...

Drug

It's more that by the stage in history when anyone might have talked of developing a layout or started thinking about how one would lay out a town if one started from scratch, the towns had already been there for centuries.

And yet huge chunks of two were subsequently built outside the historic centres. Why are they so irregular in their street plan?

In two cities that I know about, the answer is that the land outside the historic centre (walled or not) was owned —and by people with considerable power and wealth. Not that that stopped them wanting to be wealthier still. In Nottingham, where parks and gardens had scattered the one-time suburbs, landowners allowed clusters of slum streets to take up the space. In Edinburgh quite a few landlords sold off only the periphery of their grounds. Eventually their descendants gave up the big house too, but that has left odd areas of Edinburgh with no streets and no visible reason why.

The roads between these house+grounds units followed age-old land boundaries, which must have been the product of geography and the comparative wealth of the owners over the years. (Some of them are the Loans I wrote about in a previous post. Now they're just curving streets, but once they were country lanes surrounding the grounds of big houses.)

In Scotland, but not in England, some of these great-house owners retained the remnant of feudal control of the land they sold. Although no longer owning the land, they remain feu holders (pronounced like fee) receiving a small annual payment in perpetuity — until it was abolished late last century. Comparable, I think, to lease-holders in England, but more arcane and less profitable.

Even today, when a ton or city acquires land it's not necessarily a regular shape, not is the terrain necessarily suitable for grid-plan streets.

David Crosbie said...

Dru

Sorry I didn't spot what my spellchecker was doing to your name!

David Crosbie said...
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David Crosbie said...
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David Crosbie said...

This link should take you to the British Library account of Christopher Wren's proposal for a (largely) grid plan for London to be newly built after it was razed to the ground by the Great Fire of 1666.

It was never a starter. Everybody who owned land and property insisted on the exact location and size in the new London, and wouldn't yield a square inch toward any more rational layout.

Ferdinand Cesarano said...

Though I am late to the game here, I could not let comments about New York City's Borough of Queens go unanswered.

Queens, like Manhattan, has a borough-wide grid. However, Queens's avenues run east-west and increase in number as you move south; and its streets run north-south and increase in number as you move east. In both the orientation of the avenues/streets and in the direction in which they increase, this is the opposite of Manhattan's grid.

And the addresses are simply keyed to the nearest cross-road, a not-at-all-uncommon arrangement. So, an address on an avenue which lies between 59th and 60th Streets will be 59-02 or 59-37 or something; and an address on a street which lies between 34th and 35th Avenues will be 34-20 or 34-35 or something. The hyphen (usually called a "dash", somewhat inaccurately) is used only because the streets are numbered up to 271st St. and the avenues up to 165th Ave.; so the hyphen keeps straight which parts of the address are which.

(It should be noted that the dash (again, really a hyphen) is used in some addresses in Brooklyn, and for the same reason. Flatlands Ave. runs east-west and crosses streets ranging in number from E.35th St. eastward to E.108th St. So address on Flatlands Ave. have the hyphen. Thus 81-15 is between E.81st and E.82nd Sts. The use of the hyphen continues even after the cross-streets cease to be numbered after E.108th St.; the pattern goes up to 126-xx.)

Some large roads in Queens have names; but they will be treated by the grid as the numbered road which they replace. For example, Steinway St. sits where 39th St. would be. So addresses on crossing avenues between Steinway St. and 40th St. are 39-xx.

There are a few exceptions to the Queens grid:

* A few roads have a diagonal orientation, most notably Queens Blvd. and Metropolitan Ave. These are officially east-west, like avenues; so the addresses are keyed to the north-south Streets that they cross. However, both roads, being diagonal, will cross many Avenues. One must keep in mind that the addresses are dependent only on the crossing Streets, not on the crossing Avenues.

* Some small sections of Queens have addresses that do not use the Queens grid. Some use ordinary addressing starting at 1; one section, Ridgewood, inexplicably uses addresses on its east-west roads ranging from 16-xx to 20-xx where 54-xx through 58-xx would be expected, and ordinary addresses starting from 1 on its north-south roads. The Rockaway penninsula has north-south Streets ranging in number from Beach 9th St. to Beach 227th St.; the address on the avenues are the typical Queens format (such as 63-19 between Beach 63rd and Beach 64th St., etc.), but they increase as you go west, rather than as you go east. And addresses on the Streets themselves are ordinary numbers beginning with 1.

* Where there is a large space between consecutive numbers either of Streets or Avenues, intermediate suffixes are used. The most common for Streets is Place; so 210th Place sits between 210th and 211th Streets. The most common for Avenues is Road; so 85th Road sits between 85th and 86th Avenues. There are further intermediate suffixes for Streets (such as Lane) and for Avenues (such as Drive).

Despite those aforementioned situations, navigating in Queens is almost as easy as it is in Manhattan. The only places where it can get confusing is where the number of the Street and the number of the Avenue are similar, so you can have 48th St. crossing 48th Ave. And, if such a place also has a plethora of the intermediate suffixes, you can have not only 60th St. crossing 60th Ave., but also 60th Lane crossing 60th Drive.

Christian Johnson said...

@Dark Star in the Morning and @naath, your point came up in conversation this weekend in a way that sheds light on the relative absence of similar street names in the US. During a long car ride, my 8-year-old nephew asked how streets got their names. His grandmother, who's a real estate broker, explained the process in which developers submitted their plans to the county planning board. "If any of the street names have been used before, the developer has to come up with new names." I believe that's a common bias through much of the US, which explains why it's rare to see a zillion slight variations of, say, Oxford.

Atlanta's notorious indulgence of Peachtree notwithstanding, my experience in driving around the US is that that planners will allow the same name for one or two offshoots of a road, but no more. So in the development where I lived as a teenager, one of cul-de-sacs off of Cape Ann Lane was called Cape Ann Court -- but the other one was Cherrystone Court. That pattern was repeated throughout the town: only one offshoot of a larger road would re-use the name, while the rest got names of their own. My sense is that in parts of the UK, names would get re-used until they wore out!

Dark Star in the Morning said...

@Dru -- Oh, dear, this is what comes of me occasionally reading a rather eclectic (or downright weird) subject matter and of Blogger making me cut out a chunk of my original comment because I'd exceeded the character count. The long forgotten book or article I read this in (because I read it well over ten or fifteen years ago) was talking about how medieval towns grew up, and referred to some Roman general (no clue who at this late date) who lamented that you couldn't lay a town out with straight streets -- but there it was, it was indefensible if you did. That must have been downright depressing for a Roman, with their love of organization and order.....

I wasn't thinking of modern towns at all, or anything after 1600 really. Maybe not even much after the high middle ages.

I had some (not all) of that explained in my original comment, and had to cut it out. The internet foils us again, it's no substitute for face to face conversation. Drat it all anyway.

Diane Benjamin said...

@ David Crosbie
What a lovely place to grow up --so much green space!

Yep, I would call a "central reservation" a "median" or "median strip."

Thank you!

J said...

FYI re: extended zip code.
We live in a small rural village in upstate New York.
Our 5-digit zip specifies the village; the 4-digit addition specifies the PO Box #.
So with only the 9-digit zip, mail reaches us directly.

Anonymous said...

About a dozen years ago the state of Vermont installed a new emergency response system that would automatically read out the address of the telephone to a dispatcher when someone called for police, fire, or ambulance services. This system would permit one to call 911 (our emergency number) without saying anything if partially incapacitated or running from a burning building. Of course this system required every house to have a number, something that was not very common in rural areas of the state. What Vermont did was to inventory every dwelling and assign a house number based on its location from the beginning of that road, to the thousandth of a mile. Our address, for example, is 338 Orchard Rd., which means we are .338 mile from the beginning of the road. An address of 1338 would be exactly one mile farther down the road. This system is very useful to everyone and also a great aid to emergency services when trying to find an address.

enitharmon said...

Since this article was first posted I've moved to Glasgow, and as with so many things (not least that thing about British Reserve) the rules don't apply here.

In the east end, for example, Cumbernauld Road plunges doggedly from Parkhead through Dennistoun, Carntyne, Riddrie and Millerston, swallowing other more direct roads in its path and getting numbered in the 1800s by the time it finally reaches the city boundary and passes into Stepps. (It continues as Cumbernauld Road from there through Muirhead and Moodiesburn too, though with the numbering reset).

Over in the west those grand city centre thoroughfares Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street finally meet by Kelvingrove Park, where both have reached numbers in four figures, and then become Dumbarton Road which is truly epic, getting close to 3000 by the western city boundary at Yoker.

Doug Sundseth said...

Looks like I need two messages for length, so part 1:

Coming to this article (and comment thread) quite late, but I feel compelled to comment anyway. Perhaps it will be seen by some future reader.

When younger, I spent some time working as a pizza store manager and pizza delivery driver in several western US cities and that experience led me to following numbering and addressing schemes in several more. So, some comments:

Most of the western US (which might begin as far east as the original "West", in Pennsylvania) is laid out in grids, typically with address numbering in something like a Cartesian coordinate system around some origin. The most extreme version of this that I know of is that in Mormon-settled towns like Salt Lake City (mentioned upthread). In some places this is necessarily modified by topography or the railroad lines that came before the towns in many cases. For example, the old downtown area of Denver, Colorado, is aligned with the South Platte River and the rail lines that ran along it while the rest of the town is designed on a fairly strict grid. The interface between these two grid systems has resulted in quite a few five-pointed and three-pointed intersections that complicate traffic. Since this is in one of the higher-traffic areas of town, most of the streets are also one-way, which can make driving in downtown, especially near rush hour, quite annoying.

It's pretty common to have numbered streets all running in the same direction in a metro area with named streets crossing them. In Denver, this is only for the east-west streets north of Ellsworth (the x-axis of the grid); south of Ellsworth, the east-west streets are also named. Long ago, the cities in the Denver metro area decided to go to a common grid numbering system, so 10401 N. Colorado is at the corner of 104th Ave. and Colorado Blvd., in Northglenn, 12001 N. Colorado is at the corner of 120th Ave. and Colorado Blvd. in Thornton, and 1401 N. Colorado is at the corner of 14th Ave. and Colorado Blvd. in Denver.

I'll note that it is not possible to drive along Colorado from 104th St. to 14th St., though both sections are aligned on the grid, because of the S. Platte River valley intervening. This is actually standard in the metro area. My parents live on Girard Ave. (in a cul-de-sac). Girard Ave. runs east-west in fits and starts one block north of Hampden Ave. across many cities. Once you learn the grid (or at least the arterial roads and the numbering system), it's pretty simple to find a building from the address alone.

On the other hand, Phoenix, Arizona has not had the same sort of cooperation between cities. The result is that, while the metro area is built on a grid, each city has its own numbering origin point and while some streets keep their names across city lines, others change them without notice. The result is that 1153 E. Baseline Rd. might be next to 2415 W. Baseline Rd. in a different city. (Baseline is a real street, but those numbers were chosen largely at random.) This makes finding anything from a pure street address difficult at times. The store you thought was a couple of miles away might well be 15 miles away across two other cities.

In the farther west (particularly California, Oregon, and Washington), the old downtowns of often started off with numbered streets running one way and lettered streets running the other way, so the corner of 14th and F is a pretty common sort of thing to see. But alphabetical street naming doesn't have the same sort of extensibility as numbers do, so that quickly ended.

Doug Sundseth said...

Part 2:


The city of San Bernardino, California does not control all of the area within its nominal boundaries. It has incorporated patches of the area surrounding its downtown in some manner understandable only to itself and Elbridge Gerry. In some cases, there will be an incorporated lot between two unincorporated lots. Which would be of interest only when paying taxes, except that incorporated areas have numbers based on the city grid while unincorporated areas have numbers based on the county grid. It's quite common to see a five-digit house number between two low-four-digit house numbers (though the street name stays the same). 1500 might be next door to 17420 (or whatever).

Grid systems make quite a lot of sense in many ways, but time has shown that when there are many parallel streets and the traffic starts to increase, what used to be quiet, residential streets start to become thoroughfares. So more modern housing developments have started to go away from grids except for the arterial streets (often spaced 1 mile apart). The streets within such developments tend toward "twisty little passages, all alike" and death by grue is a constant danger. 8-)

On section lines: Rural roads in the west tend to run along the lines between sections (nominally square-mile blocks of land). For east-west roads, this works pretty well, requiring deviation only when there's a difficult obstacle to progress, since lines of latitude are parallel. For north-south roads, though, things are a bit different, since lines of longitude converge as you head toward either pole. The result there is that you'll be driving along an arrow-straight road in the plains and for no apparent reason, the road will suddenly turn directly east or west for some distance, then resume its north-south direction.

As to pronunciation, I typically use "zero" for "0" because it's unambiguous (the result of reading back many, many numbers over the telephone), though my intuition is that my practice is uncommon. When I suspect that I'm speaking for transcription, I normally read each digit separately ("two, nine, eight, one") rather than by pairs ("twenty-nine, eighty-one"), though the latter is more common in casual speech. For five-digit numbers, the same would apply, though the less formal would be "sixteen, four, fifty-four".

Anonymous said...

This is an unhelpfully late contribution to this topic but this difference has long interested me. I have read a lot of Harry Potter fanfic in my time, which (titter ye not) provides a lot of very interesting insights into the crossover of AmE and BrE usage: much of it is written by US-based authors who try to use the British idioms of the original books, often with mixed success. It is a dead giveaway when Harry, Ron, Hermione et al. talk of 'going to Diagon' rather than 'Diagon Alley' - I don't think many native Britons would ever say that!

An American friend of mine once completely confused me by telling me that she would meet me 'at Liverpool' - Liverpool Street (Station). She'd been resident in the UK for some years by that point - clearly it's well ingrained.