You Won't be Able to Resist Trying This

John Gummere was born in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania in 1901. He was educated at the William Penn Charter School (my husband's alma mater), Haverford College, and the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a Ph.D. in Indo-European languages. He devoted his life to education, including a 27-year stint as headmaster of Penn Charter.

A year after his death in 1988, Dr. Gummere's family published "Words &C" (I've had the book for over 20 years and still don't know what "&C" means; I've always read it as "etcetera.") Much of the content came from the column, of the same name, that Dr. Gummere wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1972-1982.

Here's a short excerpt from the book about a peculiarity in our spoken stress patterns:

Consider the words we use for roads, paths, highways, and routes for vehicles or pedestrians. If the name happens to be "street," we put our stress accent on its modifier, MAIN Street; otherwise the stress is on the names of the road or route: We say Fifth AV-enue, and Forty-SEC-ond Street. It is Kennedy BOULevard, Long LANE, Winding WAY, River ROAD.

Dr. Gummere goes on to say that what may look like a conflict is "Street Road"; however the rule applies, as we say Street ROAD.

There is no reason for this; it just is. I have conveyed this to many people; while most were not as fascinated by it as I am, they all tried it out and found it to hold true.


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