Wonder Why Wednesday: What is the Difference Between a St., Blvd, Ave & Rd?

If you are driving around New York City, you are likely to pass Wall St., Madison Ave., Malcolm X Blvd., Riverside Dr., St. James Pl., and Broadway.

In the course of one short cab ride, you could hit a street, an avenue, a boulevard, a drive, a place & Broadway (which apparently isn’t considered any of the above).

I wasn’t in New York, but I experienced something similar the other day and it got me wondering, how are the distinctions of streets determined? There has got to be a method to this madness, right?

Wonder Why Wednesday: What is the Difference Between a St., Blvd, Ave & Rd.

Well, maybe there is no method to the madness. Wikipedia says that a street or road name is called an odonym and some odonyms, “are given a name without a street type designation, such as Broadway or The Mall.”

Here’s a blog that had the same question I did. She did a lot of research, consulted a dictionary and in the end stated, “So, as you can tell, I am no closer to knowing what’s the difference between a street, avenue, road, lane or boulevard?”

For things that seem so important (direction & location), there appears to be an anything goes philosophy.

I once worked for a company that convinced the city of Wichita to change a street name to promote a basketball game. True story, you can read about it here. We changed Waterman St. to Wildcat Way (I guess the alliteration was too good for the city to pass up), so not only did we change the name, but we also changed the odonym.

At the time, I thought we were a big deal, but now I am starting to think that might not have been the case. Apparently, anything goes when it comes to streets, avenues, boulevards and roads.