Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

How to tell if you're an Arizona or Southern California local, using "the" for freeways

I've only lived three places in my life, Minnesota (where I grew up), California (where I lived in the '80s) and Arizona, where I am now, and where I always hope to be. So when I heard that it was unusual to add the word "the" to a freeway number, I was surprised. Then I put it to the test - sure enough, I found myself saying "take the 10", "take the 101" (both of which are freeways in Los Angeles and Phoenix) but when I thought of where I learned to drive, in Minneapolis, I found myself saying "take 35W".

This train of thought started for me just a couple of months ago, when I read an article that insisted that the use of "the" was strictly a Southern California thing. So I asked around here in Arizona. Everyone, and I mean everyone, I talked to includes the word "the". It seemed like a silly question to people I asked, but my friends are used to me asking silly questions.

So, apparently this is a Southern California and Arizona thing, using the word "the". I always do it, and I never heard myself doing it. So, if you're a local, you probably do, too. And people from elsewhere may look at you kinda funny.

Right now I'm curious about elsewhere. The article that I saw insisted that it was strictly a Southern California thing, but obviously it's not. I talked to my brother, who lives in the Bay area, and he says he hears people saying it with and without the "the".

1960s master freeway plan for the Phoenix, Arizona area.

A postcard showing Black Canyon Freeway in the 1960. I've always said "the Black Canyon Freeway", and if you do, then you're probably a local.

Construction of the 1-10 with the 303 freeway, Phoenix, Arizona. ADOT calls it Interstate 10 and Loop 303.

Image at the top of this post: The I-17 freeway under construction in 1961, Phoenix, Arizona. Also called the Black Canyon Freeway.

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