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Why do English speakers say "penny LANE" (emphasis on LANE) but would say "PENNY street" (emphasis on PENNY)?

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    Because of the Beatles... ;-) – Jim Dec 5 '15 at 18:31
  • To me, it just seems like a lexical difference between the words "lane" and "street." (By which I mean, I don't know why.) It would be interesting to look at how other similar words pattern. I can't think of any other word that takes the stress pattern of "street." There's a list here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_suffix but I'm only familiar with a few of these. – herisson Dec 5 '15 at 18:45
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    Note that the difference (if any) in emphasis carries no meaning. Native English speakers will tend to emphasize one word more than another for a variety of reasons, mainly having to do with the mechanics of producing the associated sounds. – Hot Licks Dec 5 '15 at 19:01
  • @sumelic: In some parts of the U.S. (e.g. New Jersey), road does not get stressed. In other parts (e.g. Massachusetts), it does. – Peter Shor Dec 5 '15 at 19:05
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    Two questions: 1) do you mean for "Penny" to stand for all possible lane/street names 2) by "English" do you mean "English language" or "English nationality"? – herisson Dec 5 '15 at 23:25
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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.

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  • @Araucaria- I am up-voting your answer (over my own) for its clarity and logic, but I still believe The Beatles have forever determined the pronunciation of "Penny LANE," at least for the duration of my life. While we may disagree on this point, please know that I very much respect all of your opinions, comments and answers. – Mark Hubbard Dec 5 '15 at 22:47
  • @MarkHubbard Are you sure that you say "penny LANE", rather than "PENny LANE"? – David Richerby Dec 6 '15 at 0:29
  • @MarkHubbard Thank you. I hope that's a bit tongue in cheek though - I don't think I respect all my comments or answers ;) Also thanks for giving me an excuse to listen to Penny Lane again. Haven't listened to that for yonks! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 6 '15 at 0:38
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    Did you mean to have the apostrophe in the possessive position in "King's Crescent"? I can't imagine we actually emphasize the s. – doppelgreener Dec 6 '15 at 2:54
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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".

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  • Precisely the first thing I thought of. It also applies to avenue (as in Shaftesbury Avenue), square (Trafalgar Square), and gardens (Kensington Gardens). – WS2 Dec 5 '15 at 20:04
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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.

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