Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Of roads, streets, avenues and the like

I've never been clear on why certain roads are called precisely that, while others are 'streets' or 'drives' or whatever. Now, an article over at Mental Floss answers the question. Here's an excerpt.

Although both terms are often applied to the same thing, a road is different from a street, at least in theory. Looking at the definitions and history of the usage of the words, the difference is a matter of place and purpose.

Roads run between two distant points — two towns, for example. In each of those towns, you’ll find streets: paved roads lined with houses and other buildings. It used to be the paving and the buildings that made a street a street, but today you’ll find many paved roads that have buildings on them (I grew up on Wisteria Road). Modern sticklers for usage will tell you that what sets streets apart today is the street life that comes with them. On Main Street in a given town, you might find people walking their dogs, having lunch in a sidewalk cafe, waiting for a friend on the corner, or simply people watching. On the road connecting Town A to Town B, you’re not likely to find any of this.

The term street, then, should be specifically applied to urban roadways. Streets connect people for interaction, while roads connect towns and cities for travel.

In the real world, though, these distinctions aren’t always made.

There's more at the link, including many more definitions of road-related terms such as avenue, boulevard and court. Interesting and useful information.



Peter said...

Well, heck. I live on an avenue and it is does not "emphasize arrival at a landscape or architectural feature." It's an ordinary suburban roadway with absolutely nothing distinctive about it. There's another "avenue" in town, which for almost all of its two-mile length has junkyards on both sides.

Anonymous said...

Obama's driving us down the Highway to Hell.

It's a "toll Road", but only the 1% have to pay.


Shrimp said...

Oh, I don't know about that, Toejam. I think the 1% are the only ones being told that they have to pay. All of us are going to pay, though.

It's sort of like dinner with a few of my friends. I ordered a burger and fries, they ordered filet mignon with lobster tails and a bottle of the best wine, and then they want to split the bill 50-50. With my friends, I can laugh in their faces and pay my portion. With the .gov, not so much.

CGHill said...

Now in my town, streets run east and west, and avenues run north and south.

Except, of course, when they don't. (My street sits between an avenue and a drive; the avenue is a tad wider, but otherwise they look about the same.)

Anonymous said...

In the olden days of Cleveland, Ohio, Avenues ran east and west, Streets were numbered E 2, W 3, and ran North and South. Boulevards wandered with curves through the city.

Who owned a part of a house in Fairview Park, which some folks thought was in Cleveland, and a lot of Cleveland police lived there.