Why do English speakers say "penny LANE" (emphasis on LANE) but would say "PENNY street" (emphasis on PENNY)?
In general two-word names of places, squares, people and roads of various descriptions take stress on both words. In the following list, the stresses are marked with a preceding apostrophe:
- 'Kings 'Road
- 'Kings 'Avenue
- 'Kings 'Crescent
- 'Kings 'Cross
- 'Kings Em'bankment
- 'Kings 'Drive
- 'Kings 'Lane.
The exception to this rule is roads or addresses with the moniker "street":
- 'Kings Street
One can only speculate on the reason for this. However, stress in general serves to mark out important informative information in English. As a last word drive, crescent, avenue or even road might provide vital information to distinguish the names of such roads from many others. On the other hand the word street is so ubiquitous that it does not provide enough differentiating information from the plethora of other "streets" in existence.
This is purely speculation, but I suggest that the difference (if it in fact exists - and with the question having firmly planted the Beatles in my consciousness I can't be sure) is due to the rarity of "lane" vs "street". I suspect most speakers would stress "lane" to make sure that the hearer understands that it is not, in fact, "Penny street".
First this is in no way official.
To me it's not a emphasis on lane as much as it is a lack of emphasis on street.
I think it comes from two distinct points.
First consider the question "What street do you live on?"
If you lived on 1st Street you would say either "1st Street" or just "1st". If is very common to say just "1st" and omit the street in this case.
If you lived on 1st Ave. You would say "1st Ave." In this case you can not omit the Ave.
Second, is the popularity or Streets v.s Ave. roads, and lanes. Typically there is a real difference between streets and roads, lanes, and others. Ave.s have a "technically" different meaning too. So (at least around here) there are far more streets then there are alternatives.
If I were to come out of no where and say I live on TreeBend, your would probably assume TreeBend Street, or Maybe Treebend Rd. So I have to train my self to say TreeBend Lane, or my Pizza might not get here in a timely manor.
To make matters worse, when you tell another person something they often hear what they want to hear. I usually have to repeat "Lane" 3-4 times and have them read it back to me, or, once again, my pizza will arrive cold.
This is specially true in towns where names overlap, and the only difference is between two streets 20 miles apart is Lane vs. Street.