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September 30, 2008


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Hi Nancy. I was just thinking about this Wall St./Main St. metonymy, too. Obama and McCain each used it twice in their first debate (these are from the CNN transcript):

"although we've heard a lot about Wall Street, those of you on Main Street I think have been struggling for a while"

"we're not talking about failure of institutions on Wall Street. We're talking about failures on Main Street, and people who will lose their jobs, and their credits, and their homes"

"we've had years in which the reigning economic ideology has been what's good for Wall Street, but not what's good for Main Street"

"Main Street is paying a penalty for the excesses and greed in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street"

Main Street for me also calls up the image of the dying center of a city or town. (All the stores have closed or moved out to the mall in the suburbs with unlimited free parking.) It's a flawed metaphor at best and I take it to mean the general population and all that is not Wall Street.
I'm getting irritated with buzz words in the news lately. I still don't understand what a hockey mom is. Do they play hockey or do they just cheer for their kids? Also pit bulls along with other attack breeds, (San Francisco had a horrific case a while back) are now uninsurable since they often attack, for no reason, and severely injure people especially small children. How can they be seen in a positive light? I for one would appreciate less "buzz" and more accurate words. And now we have "gotcha". I take it we can't ask questions unless we check first to see if they have a great answer. (Pssst, I'm holding up three fingers) Ahem! How many fingers am I holding up?

What sounds like another great movie recommendation, Nancy. I haven't got around to seeing The Band's Visit yet, but it's in my Netflix gueue. Now, I would have said Berkeley's "main street" was Shattuck Avenue rather than Telegraph. It certainly was historically -- I'm sure you've seen the old photos of the grand boulevard with trams running its length. What do you think?

"...and, naturally, a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard."

So, can you tell me why all thoroughfares named after MLK are called boulevards? I've been wondering about that for a while. (Maybe I'm making an incorrect assumption in believing that the various King Streets I've encountered are named after monarchs, but still, why no Martin Luther King, Jr., Road? Or Avenue? Or Lane?)

@Tracey: I debated between Telegraph and Shattuck. When I was an undergrad at Cal, Telegraph was much more of a main street: it had a small but thriving department store, a traditional menswear store, and many other basic shops--not just student shops and street vendors. Shattuck was a lot more impressive then, too. These days, what passes for a main street in Berkeley is probably Fourth Street, wouldn't you agree?

@Q Pheevr: Just conjecture, but a boulevard is usually the largest category of street, and when the name changes were being voted on, I think the idea was to make the honor as big and impressive as possible. That said, Berkeley (California) has an MLK Way. When the street name was changed (from Grove St.), a lot of locals called it Milky Way.

Another source for the term "Skid row" might come from the actual container called a "skid". Skids are sturdy containers about the size of a kitchen table with skids -strong runners- like a sled, that were used to hold production items. At first (I believe)they were pushed or skidded around by men or horses. Aparently millions of them were used all across North America. Later forklifts were developed to carry skids and are still widely used around the world today.
Unused or damaged skids are stacked sidways (so they don't collect water and garbage) in rows in alleys behind the factories or warehouses and still are used by homeless for shelter. Hence," skid row" which is literally a row of skids in a very poor ,often dangerous section of town.
*note* This comes from my own experiences of working at Mound Road Engine and Elgin Axle ( car parts factories )in Detroit and The Delmonte Cannery in Emeryville, Ca.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find documentation for these observations on the internet. Skid Row is also a very popular Scottish rock group and I just didn't have the time to dig past their hundreds of sites.

We don't use Main Street in this sense in the UK. We are more likely to say 'the high street' (often written in lower case and always with 'the'). The equivalent of Wall Street would be the City.
I've just checked and there are no roads called Main Street in Central London, or even further afield. There is just one Main Street in the whole of the Greater London area and that is in the borough of Hounslow, near Heathrow Airport.

@Virtual Linguist: The comments on the Language Log post to which I've linked include a lively discussion of "the high street."

(Thanks for dropping by and for introducing me to your blog!)

Why don't we try initiating "Elm Street" instead? At least that has no bad associations.

By the way, though Telegraph was the university's first road to the the outside world, and Shattuck was the first rail link, Berkeley's main street today is certainly its gateway, University, which tied the older bay village Oceanview to the big land-grant university. Besides having the right name, it's the only one of the three major streets that exists solely inside Berkeley. We'd recognize its centrality instantly if it weren't kept in a state of benignly-neglected blight by our faux-progressive, downtown-developer-controlled, about-to-be-reelected-as-usual city council.

hi,guy,I am a master student from China. My major is Business Journalism.Just now I got the link to your blog when I google "Main Street". After reading your blog,I still cannot understand the means of Main street exactly. So should we hava a discussion about this?

If you feel free, you can contact me by email. and my email adress is [email protected]. I'm looking forward to your early reply. thank you!

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