19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Monday, October 19, 1914: << no entry>>
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Sigh. . . Grandma didn’t again write anything a hundred years ago today; but I came across a fun opinion piece in the August, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal that I thought you might enjoy. Apparently suburbs were a relatively new concept back then, and some of the basics were still being figured out—like how to name the roads.
“Avenues” in the Suburbs
Can anyone give a good reason why we persist in creating “streets” and “avenues” in our new suburbs when what we are really creating are “Ways,” “Roads.” and “Lanes,” and should so name them.
We say when we move out to the suburbs that we do so because we want “to get out of the city,” and then we deliberately drag the nomenclature of the city with us. A “street” is essentially a word that we associate with a city thoroughfare: It is, in fact, according to a dictionary definition, “a public highway with buildings on one or both sides, in a city.”
An “avenue” is, according to dictionary authority, “a wide or principal street: a broad thoroughfare.” Now try to imagine any of the so-called “avenues” in our suburbs as “side or principal streets,” or “broad thoroughfares.” Perhaps you live on such an avenue: a “Maple Avenue,” say, a city block or two long and twenty feet wide! Would it not more truly reflect its real character and its surroundings had it been called “Mapleway,” or “Maple Road”? And, above all, should we not be using our language a little more correctly?
One progressive little community is taking hold of this erroneous nomenclature and has changed “Home Avenue” to “Homeway”: a one-block “Maple Avenue” has become what it is: “Mapleway,” bordered with maple trees, and “Chestnut Avenue” has become “Chestnut Lane.”
Why not be right instead of wrong in the use of the language, particularly when it is just as easy to be right?
Whew, the author got really carried away with the quotation marks. I got tired of typing them every time an “avenue”, “street,” or other “road” was mentioned.