Thursday, January 19, 2012

New York Streets, or The Origin Names

I was in New York a few weeks ago and it made me think about names. I was walking down Broadway, for instance, which was originally a "broad way." You can imagine how that worked: "You turn left onto another street--well, really it's just a broad way" or "Turn left--you'll know it: It's quite a broad way" turns into "Turn left on the broad way" and, finally, "Turn left onto Broadway."

The same is true of Wall street--"It's the street with the wall" becomes "It's the wall street" and then "It's Wall street." Almost every English town I've visited not only has a High street but makes it easy to identify the next street added because every town has a street called New street.

The same process leads from "Make me one of those things that the Earl of Sandwich has...but with more mustard" to "Make me one of Sandwich's things" to "Make me one of those Sandwich things" to end with "Make we a sandwich."

I remember the kick I got out of staying at a hotel in England and walking to my client's site every morning. I went past the Royal Military Museum (or whatever it's called) which was once Bethlehem Hospital: Bedlam. It was very cool to see, every day, the visible expression of our language's growth.

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