Streets, Lanes, Squares… What a Tangled Web we Weave

June 18, 2012

One of the things which have amazed me since my move from Russia to the UK more than 10 years ago is the English way of naming their streets. There seems to be a tendency to follow history and description. Let’s take Kings Crescent, or Princess Ann’s Close, or Prince’s Gate – they follow the royal theme. Then there is Robin Hood’s Walk, Scott Ellis Gardens, Wellington Road – streets named after a person. Streets with a geographical reference speak for themselves: Cambridge Street, Guilford Avenue, London Road, Windermere Road, Bath Road, wherever such roads used to take at the time of carts and horses…

 

But I especially like the descriptive names, they have a distinct connotation to something around even if it has been lost over the years: Beech Walk, Castle Hill, Chestnut Close, and I have a particular liking of Weeping Willow Lane. Or there is Running Post Lane.

 

Russian street names are steeped in history, too. They tend to go after historic personalities and events though, there is certainly Lenin Street in every city and town, Gagarin Street is another example; Constitution Square and Revolution Square sound very prominent but may be a little unusual to a foreign ear.

 

You do find some similarities, though. If there is St Peters Hill in the UK, there is Молочная гора (Milk Hill) in Russia. You can find even very close equivalents, e.g. Baker Street and улица Пекарская.

 

In both countries the way streets run determines their name ending, it can be a simple Street, or Avenue, Way, Close, Place, Square, Lane, Crescent, Road, however, there doesn’t appear to be such a variety in Russia: we have улица (Street), проспект (Avenue), переулок (Lane), площадь (Square), and even микрорайон (Estate). Perhaps this is because, with Russia being such a vast country, the layout is rather predictable - mostly straight!

 

And while lots of streets were renamed after the Soviets came to power, to do away with the tsar and the Russian empire, some of them have recently received their original name again. Somehow I can’t see this happening in the UK, it would be too tricky to re-write history...

 

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