I love noticing the things that make a new-to-me region unique. Sometimes it’s as simple as the labels on a map.
For example, when I moved to Virginia, there were suddenly street names like Yates Ford Road and Buschwood Mews.
Apparently, a ford is a shallow spot in a river that makes for easy crossing. Apparently, they got named (after the guy who owned the land?). Presumably so you’d know which crossing to take.
And mews? They’re not just cat noises, they’re rows of houses or apartments converted from stables. Oh, well, of course. Though the homes on that road hardly fit the bill.
And this being part of the South—and the site of several key Civil War battles—every other road is named after Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson, or both. Thank goodness for GPS.
Around here, a stream can’t just be a stream or a creek, or even a brook. No, no, no. It’s a “run”. We have Rocky Run, Bull Run—not to be confused with the running of the bulls, see Civil War battles above—-Cub Run, See Jane Run…
Quite a switch from the “washes” of my youth, those dry riverbeds—except during monsoon season, then watch out!—that criss-cross the Sonoran Desert. Pantano Wash, Tanque Verde Wash. Gonna-go-drinking-down-at-the wash.
In Arizona and California many of the streets and towns had Spanish names. Arroyo this, Casa that, Camino something or other, Del who, what Vista. Can you tell I took German?
One of the reasons I’m so scared to set a book in a place I’ve never lived is because of these differences. Not the easy stuff I can find on a map or in a guide book, but the way the locals use words to describe the geography of the place they live.
Do you call it I-5? The Five? Five? Is it A3 or Northwest Expressway? Centreville Road or 28? Is it the metro, the T, the El, the subway, BART? Do you go into The City? Into The District? Downtown?
What makes your city/region different, or what have you noticed when you’ve visited or moved to other places?
Photo credit: ROCKY STREAM © Gigapixel | Dreamstime.com