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« International Workers' Day | Main | Veterans Affairs Nurses [Strikeout Nurses] Management Scrutinized After Patient Deaths (Norman Costa) »

May 03, 2012


Google maps searches for Iron (NM, PA), Borax (UT, CA, FL), and Plastic (WI, TN) Avenues all turn up multiple address results; Formica Street turns up one (MO). There's a Medical Drive near a Hospital Drive (MO); utilitarian Missouri also has a Swine Drive.

In European cities, streets often take their name from their medieval market function. For an example I recently visited, in Barcelona's Barri Gothic and El Born, one treads the old haunts of the silversmiths on Argenteria, sword-makers on Espaseria, and milliners on Sombrerers. I remember coming across similar examples in Paris and Rome, but no longer remember what they were.

Here we have a cluster of names that sound like something from the ex-Soviet Union: Progress Blvd, Enterprise Blvd, Industrial Blvd and Transit Blvd. Another nearby area picks their names from towns like Laredo, Lorlita, Alamo and Monterey, another uses Native American tribe names like Navajo, Apache, Sioux, etc. (though why they left out Susquehanna, a truly local tribe, I do not know.)
Of course, the fake Ye Merrie Olde England names that are assigned to street names in McMansion developments are always fun (Canterbury Dr, Gloucester Ave, Banbury St, Cadbury Ct, etc.)
I must also mention that Pittsburgh has the distinction of lying between Moon and Mars.

Streets alluding to market function are very common in India, especially in older parts of towns. Delhi's ancient Mughal era Chandni Chowk market has series of alleys, each one catering to just one commodity like saris, lace, jewelry, sweets, fried flat bread and such like. The alleys are referred to by the name of the merchandize - Paranthe Wali Gali, as in the case of fried bread. Indian cities also have landmarks which allude to an event, function or culture. There is Khooni Darwaza (Murderous/ Bloody Gate) in old Delhi where young princes of the Mughal royal household were hanged by the British after the 1857 soldiers' uprising (Sepoy Mutiny). Old Dehi has gates surrounding the Mughal township named after the cities which the through roads led to(Kashmiri, Ajmeri Gates). But these names came about as a descriptive moniker. The Dow Corning names are a bit different, deliberately picked to point to the total enterprise.

Formica Road is very funny.

We too have toffy sounding names evoking the British Isles in our vicinity. The ones I have seen are more Scottish than English - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kilmarnoch, Wolverhamton and so on.

The funniest controversy about street names that I have come across occurred a few years ago in east Texas near Beaumont, involving a street named Jap Road. The controversy has been resolved and Jap Road is now known by a more appropriate name.

Every once in a while, I invert this inquiry with a fun game. A friend and I many years ago were driving around west Los Angeles when we decided to play the game of choosing a name for a child based on the first two street names we passed. We were on Pico heading west a few blocks past La Brea. The streets were Ridgeley Dr. and Hauser Blvd. Ridgeley Hauser--not a bad name for a west side kid, eh?

Or Pico La Brea?

I've always found the bar owning, hard-gambling Pio Pico a rather hilariously shady founding father. Not sure I'd want to name a kid after him.

Incidentally, I walked past that stretch of Pico, which is less than a mile from where I live, on a recent 16 miles walk with 50 or so other Angelinos down the length of Pico Blvd (as Mallory said, "because it's there.").

La Brea means "the tar pits," which means that my neighborhood's coolest landmark, La Brea tar pits, means, "the tar pits tar pits." I've always wondered if that one makes bi-lingual Spanish speakers scratch their heads.

Oops, that shows my knowledge of Spanish, a language I should learn but never get around to it.

Anna, the repetitive use of the same word in "La Brea tar pits" reminds me of a similar interesting linguistic practice in Indian languages. In most north Indian tongues (I have no knowledge of the south Indian ones) it is common to use double words. Sometimes the second one is a rhyming non-sense word similar to saying "Anna-Shmanna." Sometimes they are closely related words used in tandem such as "song-dance," "soup-bread," "rice-lentil" or "meat-spice." But often it is an English (or sometimes Arabic or Persian) word followed by its Indian equivalent. For example, in Hindi legalese many people will say "court-kachhairi," "police-sipahi". Such usage probably developed when the non-English speaking Indians became familiar with official English words and proceeded to use them followed by simultaneous translation to understand and to be understood.

I hail from Whittier (yes, yes, I know, it's the "hometown" of Richard Nixon--but not really, since he was born in Yorba Linda), where just outside the city limits the Pio Pico Mansion resides, now recently renovated. It's kind of a charming little spot.

"The La Brea Tar Pits" normalized to English would in fact read, "The the tar tar pits." And now, of course, there's the Los Angeles Angels.

Anna, you live among a wealth of landmarks. Reyner Banham's old architectural study, Los Angeles, captures some of them. Not far from you, I gather, is Farmer's Market, the big blue whale of the Pacific Design Center (in the shadow of which sits the Bodhi Tree, not so much a landmark as a must-see bookstore), a bunch of funky looking restaurants (Pinks, the caboose on Sunset, Formosa Cafe, etc.). I realize some of these are out Hollywood way, but that's not too too far from the Miracle Mile and environs.

Come to think of it, I live near a pair of streets whose combination would make a respectable name: Cornell Stannage.

Now that you mention Los Angeles, Dean, I was reminded of trivia about LA's name.
Did you know that the full official name of LA is "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula" ?
Quite a mouthful, since we have shortened it to Los Angeles in general parlance and more recently just LA, as if it takes too much time to say 'Los Angeles'.

i happened to spend a month in Asiad Vilage in new Delhi. a huge 5 acre development built during the '82 Asiad hosted by India. the streets are named after the ahtletes who made some mark in the Games. you have makhan singh block, madanlal block, cota singh block, kamaljit sandhu block and so on. a P T Usah block was conspicuous by its absence!!!

Late reply here. I was in Virginia for three days. (Well, one day in Lexington and two days in the air.) If I knew LA's official name, Sujatha--and perhaps I read it at Olvera Street long ago--I sure wouldn't have been able to recite it as you have. I kinda like the mouthful.

I didn't think to look for street name pairs in Lexington, but of course there we find what we expect, namely, Jefferson, Lee, etc.

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