H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.X. Proper Names in America
4. Street Names
Next to the numbering and lettering of streets, a fashion apparently set up by Major Pierre-Charles L’Enfant’s plans for Washington, the most noticeable feature of American street nomenclature, as opposed to that of England, is the extensive use of such designations as avenue, boulevard, drive and speedway. Avenue is used in England, but only rather sparingly; it is seldom applied to a mean street, or to one in a warehouse district. In America the word is scarcely distinguished in meaning from street. Boulevard, drive and speed-way are almost unknown to the English, but they use road for urban thoroughfares, which is very seldom done in America, and they also make free use of place, walk, passage, lane and circus, all of which are obsolescent on this side of the ocean. Some of the older American cities, such as Boston and Baltimore, have surviving certain ancient English designations of streets, e. g., Cheapside and Cornhill; these are unknown in the newer American towns. Broadway, which is also English, is more common. Many American towns now have plazas, which are unknown in England. Nearly all have City Hall parks, squares or places; City Hall is also unknown over there. The principal street of a small town, in America, is almost always Main street; in England it is as invariably High street, usually with the definite article before High.
I have mentioned the corruption of old Dutch street and neighbor-hood names in New York. Spanish names are corrupted in the same way in the Southwest and French names in the Great Lakes region and in Louisiana. In New Orleans the street names, many of them strikingly beautiful, are pronounced so barbarously by the people that a Frenchman would have difficulty recognizing them. Thus, Bourbon has become Bur-bun, Dauphine is Daw-fin, Foucher is Foosh’r, Enghien is En-gine, and Felicity (originally F licité) is Fill-a-city. The French, in their day, bestowed the names of the Muses upon certain of the city streets. They are now pronounced Cal-y-ope, Terp-si-chore, Mel-po-mean, You-terp, and so on. Bons Enfants, apparently too difficult for the native, has been translated into Good Children. Only Esplanade and Bagatelle, among the French street names of the city, seem to be commonly pronounced with any approach to correctness. Worse, there is a growing tendency to translate the old names. Thus, the rue Royale is now usually called Royal street.
The use of at in the phrase, “Fifth avenue at 48th street,” seems to be an Americanism. It indicates that the house designated is near the corner, but not actually at it. I have observed this use of at in England.