Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Post On Language and Freeways

I'm confused.

I don't know how I came onto it, but there's apparently a lot of negativity towards Californians (in particular, Southern Californians) for a very weird reason. I have never given it any thought, as it has been a part of my life since I've been born, but apparently it makes me look like some sort of grade-A jerk to everyone outside of the area.

The reason: using definite articles when referring to freeways.

Seriously. I'm not making this up. There's questions about it, more questions about it, elitist editorial letters about it, and even academic articles about it.

One question, northern California and everyone else: What the Hell? Seriously, when did this become an issue? Why do you care about our lexicographic quirks? And really, how does anything else make sense?

I mean, think about it grammatically. What if I were to say, "Take 5 to 110." What the hell does that mean? Take 5 what? However, when you say "Take the 5 to the 110," I know you're referring to something identified as "The Five" and in California, that means the freeway. No muss, no fuss. It's easy, grammatically pleasing, and flows much better than, say, "Take I-5 to I-110."

Also, I'd like to quickly point out what some Northern Californian said in response to the question about why SoCal people have this habit.
Your question reminded me of a television ad by the United States Forest Service a few years back. It involved a small child seeing the symbol of the USFS and telling it's father "It's Smokie Bear", to which the father replied "Don't you mean Smokey THE Bear", and the child again said "No! It's Smokey Bear. You wouldn't say Easter THE Bunny would you?
No, kid, you say "THE Easter Bunny." And it is Smokey the Bear, because Smokey is the name of the bear, and "Bear" is a descriptor, not a surname. Whereas the "Easter" part of the Easter Bunny's name is not a name but a modifier to explain what kind of bunny it is. And the only way the child's statement would make sense is if we called him "The Smokey Bear," which we don't, because that sounds too much like it would be a Joe Camel-like mascot. And that is why I hate the United States Forest Service. 'Cause they're idiots. And the kid in their commercial is an idiot. And the guy who posted this in response to a question about Californian freeways is an idiot.

So, anyone who's not from SoCal, I have a question: what's your problem? Why does our saying "The 405" bother you so much?

(NOTE: I've been very kind with not referencing the "word" hella in this post.)


Anonymous said...

Amen, Andrew! You're 'hella' right, to steal a word that you eloquently pointed out from our Nor Cal "fellows"...I still get shivers when I hear that.

I guess we So. Californians are under greater scrutiny by the rest of the US. That's because they know that they won't ever be like us, so they must over-comphenstate for their jealously. Ah, no hard feelings, I like Northern California.

-Comrade Chavez

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds kind of, stupid. I don't go up to San Francisco and ask them why they have this or that practice. Frankly, it's far easier to pick on Texans for their use of cowboy-speak, southerners for well, it's obvious. To be quite frank, the image of San Francisco, or SanFran/Frisco, that I've usually been presented with is this: A city built up by hippies (pure and simple) who all turned greedy and elitist in the 80's and act the same way towards others as the French are reputed to do towards Americans.
Of course if this were really true, it would make more sense for Northerners to nitpick at our speech quirks, seeing as it would fall in with their snobbish, elitist attitude.