More California linguistics

Angelenos give the definite article to highway numbers (“Take the 10 East to the 405 North”). San Franciscans give the definite article to neighborhood names “the Mission is between the Castro and the Haight”).

Perhaps when Kevin Drum has figured out why Southern Californians insist on giving highway numbers the definite article (as in “Take the 10 East to the 405 North”) he can work on the much more significant question of why San Franciscans give neighborhood names the definite article (“the Castro,” “the Mission,” “the Haight,” “the Tenderloin”).

I gather that the understood missing word is “district;” “in the Mission District” would be more natural than simply “in Mission District.”

Maybe there’s some sort of clue to be found in the exceptions: as far as I know, it’s always “Pacific Heights,” “North Beach,” “Russian Hill,” “Nob Hill,” and “Noe Valley,” without the articles. Is that because they name geographic features? Or is the rule that one-word names get the definite article but two-word names don’t?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: