My Nor Cal cousins were in town this week, just to hang out a little bit. Now, anyone that has ever spent some time living in California knows that Nor Cal and So Cal are very different places. Every time I visit my cousins up north I feel as though I'm in a different country. Well, to the extent of, say...Canada, cause at least they still speak English. However it seems that though California as a whole is very much the same, in the grand scheme of things, it comes down to the small details that make the biggest difference.
Case in point? "The." "The" is possibly one of the most over looked words in the English language, surpassed only by letters of shorter length such as "of" and "a." Despite this fact "the" has the ability to differentiate a So Cal-er from a Nor Cal-er. Down here in So Cal we refer to every freeway with the prefix, "the." The 110, the 405, the 710. Nor Cal natives on the other hand, negate the "the." Stating 110 North, or 210 West. Often times Nor Cal-ers will ask me why we include the "the," and honestly I'm not sure. I know I don't consciously add the "the." Nor do I feel any need not to allow for it. So why the "the?"
I have a theory. In Southern California, the car culture is one of our major trademarks. Therefore it seems to follow that our freeway system would be very important to us. And a way to denote importance, from a literary standpoint, would be the addition of "The." A great example of this would be Samuel Johnsons' The Life of Shakespeare. Johnson is the only writer to put "the" before his edition of The Life of Shakespeare, telling others that his account is the truest and most accurate. Though "the" may add importance and promience, it does not assure inerrancy, so you can deciede whether Johnson's version is best. In any case for So Cal residents the 110 or the 5 maybe their very livelyhood, and thus requires some recongition.
No matter what the cause maybe for the addition, it seems as though "the" will not soon leave the freeway system in Southern California, and it's just another coloquial feature that gives So Cal residents their own identity.
Improper Usage of "the"