07 June 2005

take {the} 101

A fun little shibboleth that marks an LA resident or native is the use of a definite article before a highway number. E.g., in the Bay Area you might take 101 or 880, but in LA, you take the 101 or the 405. Only having been in California for a year, I wasn't aware of how salient this was until this quarter, when my students all vehemently agreed that it's a pretty blatant SoCal marker.

A crude Google search backs it up. Search terms like [take-101] and [take-the-101] register lots of "directions" web pages. (6 of the first 50 for [take-101] do not).

Only 3 of the first 50 hits for [take-the-101] involve Bay-Area pages, with perhaps 6 Phoenix sites - not the same 101, clearly - and the rest in the LA area including Santa Barbara. [take-101] nets 37 or so pages from the Bay Area, along with 7 for the LA region (and some of these sites seem to be tersely stripped of definite articles in general).

At this point I can't remember clearly what we did with Ontario highways. Limited-access highways in Ontario are numbered with 3 digits, the first of which is 4, like 417 and 401. I can't reliably say whether I used "417" or "the 417". I do recall referring to other (non 400-level) highways as "Highway N" (e.g., "take Highway 7 through Peterborough"). Perhaps another google project will help clear it up.

[Update: a similar search with "417" reveals astonishing results. Of the first 50 ghits for [Take-417], 25 refer to a highway in Florida near UCF, and 25 refer to the higway from Ottawa to Montreal. Meanwhile, of the first 50 ghits for [take-the-417], 5 refer to the Florida highway and 45 refer to the Ottawa highway. This might be why "the 101" never sounded odd to me.]


At Wed Jun 08, 12:11:00 PM 2005, Blogger Q. Pheevr said...

Oh, yes--it's definitely the 401 that gets me to Scarborough and back. And I think you're right that it's just the 400-series highways that get the article.

At Wed Jun 08, 04:45:00 PM 2005, Blogger Bob Kennedy said...

I was inclined to think that about the 401, but wasn't sure what the local TO usage was. I think next up is to test this against new highways like the 407 and 416. I might also compare total ghits for "take-the-4xx", "take-4xx", and "take-highway-4xx", the last of which might be really prevalent.

And I've realized I left out an obvious alternative for non-400 series highways - Route N, as in Route 7.

At Wed Jul 06, 01:13:00 PM 2005, Blogger Q. Pheevr said...

I've now determined empirically, through an unintentional experiment, that the Toronto Star amends "the 401" to "Highway 401" in published letters to the editor.

At Thu Jul 07, 02:33:00 PM 2005, Blogger Bob Kennedy said...

To follow up, I tried using the search function on Canoe.ca to return hits for "the-401" and "the-417". Even though the search engine is google-powered, and I used the quotation marks and hyphen to try to get the words as a phrase, the query strips the "the" from the search term. The result is lots of stories referring to "Hwy. 401" or "Hwy. 417". I haven't checked the Star as I don't have it bookmarked, but maybe I'll give it a go.


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