Highway names

Page Stephens hpst at EARTHLINK.NET
Wed Jun 11 20:45:11 UTC 2003

I just talked to a friend of mine, Dick Cannon, who lives in Fithian,
Illinois which is located about half the way between Champaign, and
Danville, Illinois.

He told me that for as long as he remembers, and he wrote the definitive
history of Fithian, route 150 was always called the Danville road.

This brings up the question of why those who lived in Fithian called it the
Danville Road as opposed to the Champaign road.

I asked him if he had any idea what those in Danville called it but he had
no idea. He also did not know what people in Danville called the road
although if you know anything about the geography of the area they could
have either called it the Crawfordsville (Ind) road or the Indianapolis road
to suggest only two more important towns to the east of Danville.

The question which comes up is what exactly determines local usage in terms
of road names.

Is it priority of economic importance which explains local usage or is it
something else like priority of usage which then becomes imbedded into local
cultural/linguistic usage?

I do not know but I think that there is a dissertation imbedded in my
questions for any graduate student who wants to look into them.

BTW Dick told me that in terms of Fithian and Champaign they no longer
bother to put the I before interstates but simply call them by their number.

Page Stephens

----- Original Message -----
From: "Page Stephens" <hpst at EARTHLINK.NET>
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: Highway names

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Page Stephens <hpst at EARTHLINK.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Highway names
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> As long as I can remember having been raised in southern Illinois,
> college in Indiana and am currently living in Cleveland, Ohio I have
> used the number of the highway without any modifier such as route,
> etc. Thus when you wanted to give directions you merely said something
> "go west on 161" or whatever. The only time I can recall using a modifier
> Cleveland is in order to distinguish a highway from an interstate but in
> that case you would normally tell someone to take the local entrance ramp
> onto I-480, I-71 or whatever and take it either in or out of town in order
> to get to your desired destination.
> This usage has probably changed somewhat over the years but the older,
> highway names referred to the destination of the roads still exist in such
> places as Cleveland in terms of street names. Thus Lorain Avenue leads you
> eventually to Lorain, Ohio, and route 150 in Champaign, Illinois was at
> least when I lived there 30 years ago called "The Danville Road" by old
> timers since it went to Danville, Illinois.
> Then there is the opposite effect when street names in a particular town
> like the one I grew up in, Centralia, Illinois, became the name for roads
> leading out of it. The Green Street Road never received a highway number
> if you wanted to get to Salem, Illinois you could either take 51 north out
> to 50 at Sandoval and then go east. Or you could take the Green Street
> which led to the same place since it connected with
> 50 just west of Salem. 51 was a north south road and 50 was east west. If
> you took the Green Street road you could cut across the diagonal and then
> run into 50 just before it reached Salem.
> By and large in Illinois north south highways had odd numbers as I recall
> but not without exception since 161 ran east and west.
> Page "It's a lot more fun to be the informant than it is to be the
> anthropologist" Stephens

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