Curiosity, Kevspeak And What To Call A Street

by Kevin Burton

  I am a former fulltime newspaper reporter, but maybe my wife Jeannette would have been better than I was.

   Maybe much better.

   She stuns me with the questions she asks sometimes.  She’s just so curious.  Me?  I am so not curious, I’ve had to come up with a euphemism to soften my acute indifference. 

  If she asks me something about say, frozen yogurt, I will say, “I’m not aware of the frozen yogurt,” which to a marriage partner sounds a lot better than, “I could not possibly care less about the frozen yogurt,” or “please refer all future questions about the frozen yogurt to somebody, anybody more knowledgeable than I and who is not within earshot of me.”

   Sometimes when I was a reporter, a big, big story, which happened to be somebody else’s big, big story to cover, would be off my radar entirely.

   “I’m not aware of the toxic chemical spill,” I could have said. But of course I had not yet invented my euphemistic phrase. This is Kevspeak, and it has evolved over the years.

   Similarly, if Jeannette asks me something I consider to be particularly obscure or arcane, I will ask, “If I give you that information, what are you going to do with it?” 

   Well of course I am curious about some things. This week I looked up something I have been wondering about. I got my information and a suggestion from its author, about what to do with it now that I have it.

   I have been curious about the names given to motorways. What, if anything, is the difference between a street and a road or a boulevard, etc.? 

   “Every city is chock full of streets, boulevards, lanes and avenues. But what does it all mean? It gets confusing,” wrote Dustin Nelson on “Despite the sometimes-haphazard way these streets can appear, there’s actually some logic to the whole thing.”

      Here is what at least some of the names mean:

      Road – Anything that connects two points.

      Way – A side street off a road.

      Street – A public way with buildings on both sides. These often run perpendicular to avenues.

      Avenue – Also have trees or buildings on both sides.

      Boulevard – A wide street in a city with trees or greenery on both sides. There is generally a median in the middle of a boulevard.

      Lane – A narrow road, often in a rural area.

      Drive – A winding road that has its route shaped by natural features such as a lake or mountain.

      Terrace – A road that runs along the top of a slope.

      Place – A road with no throughway.

      Court – A road with no throughway that ends in a loop or cul-de-sac.

      Plaza or Square – An open public space that’s surrounded by businesses or streets.

   Of course there are exceptions to these “rules.” You’re probably thinking of some from your local area right now. There are no motorway police telling people what names to give things.

   But my curiosity has been satiated. And now that I have this information Mr. Nelson?

   “Now you can take all that excellent information and bore the hell out of your relatives on Thanksgiving, elucidating how strange it is that Evergreen Terrace doesn’t actually run along the top of a slope.”

   Got it, right on!

   Here is some bonus coverage, also suitable for Thanksgiving: a “byway” is “a little-travelled side road” and a “parkway” is a “a broad, landscaped thoroughfare,” according to Merriam-Webster.

   Jeannette has taken my what-are-you-going-to-do-with-that-information line and used it against me more than once. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as they stroll down the boulevard, pausing to exchange pleasantries at the median.

  Now, if I hear her saying something along the lines of, “I’m not aware of the Shocker game,” I will know she has picked up on that one too.   

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