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In the UK, we often hear of roads in Northern Ireland being called "The X Road" in the news. This isn't common usage in Great Britain. I can think of five reasons why this may be common usage, but haven't been able to work out which one dominates as each seems to maybe apply sometimes:

  1. The usage refers to a general area by metonymy;
  2. The usage is a differential linguistic marker of community membership within NI;
  3. The usage is uncomplicatedly common throughout the island or within NI;
  4. The roads change name a number of times throughout their length, and this phrasing is used to denote the whole length in contrast to the named parts;
  5. The usage is no more common than in the UK / the sample is incomplete / this is selective memory, etc.
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    The usage is reasonably common in GB, if you think of roads named for the place they go to. Birmingham has 'the Bristol Road', London has 'the Great North road', half of England has 'the London road', Inverness has 'the Edinburgh road'. All the NI road names cited are, at root, named for the places they go rather than for people, foreign places, famous battles etc. – Spagirl Jun 15 '17 at 7:32
  • Sometimes 1. Not 2. Probably 3. Maybe 4 sometimes (which is a bit like 1 anyway). Maybe 5! What Spagirl says is true of all the specific examples listed but probably isn't the sole reason: I suspect Irish people, north and south, are simply prepared to put 'the' in front of any old 'road.' (I'm from the north, incidentally.) I'm going to think about this, ask around, and, if I can, flesh it out into a proper answer. (Incidentally, I think the British English tag is wrong ...and I'm not sure if I'm joking or not in mentioning this!) – tmgr Sep 12 '18 at 9:34
  • My experience is more 6) what Spagirl says-- named for the places they go to. Where I grew up (in the South) we had the Naas Rd, the Saggart Rd, the Dublin Rd. – S Conroy Sep 14 '18 at 21:34
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I was born in NI and lived in Belfast for several years. I have walked all over that city and I can answer your question with two suppositions via my experiences there and elsewhere.

With example Falls:

'The Falls Road' is used as a area name, not necessarily for the road. Such areas are also known as 'the Falls'. Belfast is quite readily divided into several spider roads, and you can see that on the bus route names. It's an easy reference that most people will get.

I have seen it used in GB too, but for larger areas - e.g. the Wirral, the Lakes, the Docks, the Valleys, the Borders

And elsewhere in NI, for different place types - e.g. the Mournes, the H-Blocks

Garvaghy Road is interesting, because I never heard it called 'Garvaghy Road', only 'the Garvaghy' or 'the Garvaghy Road' or 'the Garvaghy interface'. I have never been there and have heard it named only via the news.

My second supposition is that the more the area gets used with a definitive (i.e. in phrases, where road names weren't designed to be) the less strange it is to hear it, and the more alien it is to hear it with no determiner at all; for example, imagine hearing a newscaster say 'Today on Falls Road there was an incident involving ..." or even looking just once at the two place-name words I just wrote.

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  • Same thing happens in the UK with the M20. – JJJ Oct 19 '18 at 21:47
  • In Australia we'd say "the M1" (but rarely, since no one remembers the numbers) which in my city refers in part to "Dandenong Rd", the alternative name for which is "the Princes Highway". Horses for courses, I think. There's a main street in my suburb called "High Street", and almost all locals would say "Shop X on High St", but my partner (who lived for a while in London) insists on using the UK-style "Shop X on the High St". – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Oct 19 '18 at 23:45

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