For those of you who missed last week’s kick off of the new “how come?” feature at All In, here’s the deal: you ask a question about the region, we post it here, and solicit answers from others in the community.
For example, last week, we had a question about Amish in the north country. We had a real expert weigh in on that one, Karen Johnson Weiner.
This week, our question comes from Donica Margaret via our Facebook page. She asks:
“How come people here call a road “the” whatever road? As in, Suzie lives in the green house on The Smith Road (instead of just Smith Road). My husband and I aren’t from here and I find it to be so…odd? My husband, a fluent French speaker, assumes that it’s a French influence (e.g., la rue).”
Then, someone pointed out that this custom seems to apply only where it’s a road name–the “the” is not there when we refer to a route or an avenue.
And, Gary Pierce wrote, “Good one, Donica. I’ve lived here all my life and never realized that until someone from Buffalo pointed it out to me. Example, I tell people I live on “the” Harper Road, where as my friend says I live on Harper Road.”
While I grew up in Manhattan, I’ve lived here long enough to have adopted the “the” custom. I definitely use it when speaking about the road someone lives on. Always. The only example of an anomalous “the” that I can think of from my childhood is “The” Bronx. None of the other boroughs have a “the” — it’s stand alone for Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
I searched briefly to see if I could find out why The Bronx has a “the.”Couldn’t find a definitive answer, but I’m guessing that it has something to do with being named after The Bronx River. Maybe? Here’s a link to The Bronx Historical Society’s page.
Okay, I don’t think we’ve really answered the “the” question. I’m going to see if our word friend, Grant Barrett of “A Way With Words” can help us out.
Stay tuned…or post your theory below. And, remember, we’re looking for your questions–from the trivial to the deep and meaningful. It’s all good. Email those questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see if someone can answer them.