6.0643 Q: Street Stress (1/24)

Fri, 2 Apr 1993 15:50:33 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0643. Friday, 2 Apr 1993.

Date: Fri, 2 Apr 93 11:22:53 BST
From: frsfwl <F.W.Langley@frd.hull.ac.uk>
Subject: Street Stress

Writing recently to the British newspaper The Independent, a reader asked
why we say *Oxford* Street, stressing the first word, but Park *Lane*,
stressing the second. Another reader puts it down to what he calls "good
old British snobbery", claiming that in the great suburban housing boom of
the late Twenties and Thirties, people wanted to move away from streets,
where "common" people lived, and into Avenues, Parks, Crescents and Walks,
where "common" people did not live. Hence, the upwardly socially mobile
would say, "We live in Acacia *Crescent*, not in a common old street like

This explanation is not altogether convincing, but I honestly do not know
whether the present stress pattern existed before the Twenties and
Thirties. The practice seems to be the same throughout the
English-speaking world: in the USA it is *Wall* Street,
but Lexington *Avenue*. Are Americans as snobbish as the British about
the name of the thoroughfare on which they live? How about Canadians,
Australians? It is certainly true that in the UK, when a new housing
development is built, the streets are never called "Street" or "Road", but
"Avenue" (without a tree in sight), "Crescent" (if there is the slightest
bend in the road), "Walk" (even though traffic thunders down it
twenty-four hours a day), "Way", "Close", etc.

Has anyone an alternative explanation to the one offered?