What's in a Street Name? Plenty!


I've lately decried what I consider to be an increasing lack of free choice in one's daily life (unless one is rich). In fact, there's one particular part of one's life, an important one, over which you have no control: your address. I doubt most people would move to a place because they like the name of the street. If one moves there, one is stuck with the address, like it or hate it. 

Butt Hole Road sign

However, in 2009, the residents who lived on Butt Hole Road in Leicester, England, did have the name of the street changed. Apparently they were also sick of the constant mooning pics going on in front of the street sign. In contrast, the people who live on Butthole Lane (also in Leicester, England) like the name and defiantly refuse to change it. By the way, in both cases the word “butt” is either Anglo-Saxon or Middle English, and means a target, not an ass. Oh, well … 

In the United States, the most common street names are mostly numbers (boring!) and innocuous ones named after trees like Maple and Oak. Main and Church are up their in popularity, harking back to the small town culture of America, still predominant up to the middle of the century. 

In fact, according to the link above, “road names are pieces of history. They encode the culture and geography of America. In Arizona, popular street names are Apache, Palo Verde, Mesquite. In New Mexico, Cedar and Pinon top the list; In Colorado, it’s Aspen and Spruce.” For example, in Chicago, I've noticed Native American names like Winnemac and Milwaukee as well as the ubiquitous Lincoln because Chicago is in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. 

Milwaukee Avenue sign in Chicago

So true, but I've often wondered about how one might feel about certain street names in this time of widespread cultural transformation. Words change meaning as contexts change. For example, might an atheist feel upset that he or she lived on Church Street? Or a woman living on King Street? Perhaps now certain gay guys might feel piqued that they live on Queen Street. In this case, perhaps, one could be too “pc.” 

I also found out that some newer housing subdivisions have been able to choose new street names. Perhaps in this case one could buy or rent a place because one like the name. For example, in Sterling Heights a subdivisions boasts street names from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I myself would love to live on Rivendell Lane. For me, it evokes an image of a pastoral paradise more than the common and boring tree and park-related names one often sees in suburban housing developments. 

Rivendell illustration

In the second paragraph, I mentioned that the word butt in those street names did not refer to the ass. Yet the sexual names abound (perhaps not intentionally). I've discovered a Manlove Street and a Cumming Street that intersects with Seamen Street. And Morningwood (again, not intentional!).Broomrape Lane is the address of four families. Really, people, try very hard to get that one changed. Most people don't know it refers to a flower. 

Broomrape Lane sign

So, what is the name of the street where you live? My street is the name of a famous opera where a gypsy seduces a soldier. I don't know if that was the inspiration for the name. It's located between two streets with Native American names, and there's some Scottish ones in the area too. Just be sure to often walk down mine, especially is you are cute and single. 

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