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Why West Coast Drivers Add ‘The’ to Their Freeway Numbers

It’s not an affectation of the car-obsessed—it’s history.
relates to Why West Coast Drivers Add ‘The’ to Their Freeway Numbers
Omar Bárcena / Flickr

Take the 101 to the 134 to the 10. Adding definite articles in front of every highway, freeway, and interstate must sound like an affectation to out-of-town ears. So why do California drivers talk like that?

It’s not only those drawling, car-obsessed Pacific Coasters who can’t stop adding “the” to their roads. The transpo-idiom can be heard on roads all over the West, from Utah to Nevada to Arizona. And it’s not an affectation; there’s a reason for it, according to Nathan Masters over at KCET, related to the region’s long-standing love affair with the private automobile.