Last month, when he was in town, I had dinner with Matt Yglesias, and when we were about done we got to talking about directions back to his hotel (this was a few minutes before I got lost taking him there). He noted that I, like other Californians, refer to freeways using the definite article: "the 5," "the 405," "the 10," etc. Back east, I guess, you don't do this, do you? It's — what? "Highway 5"? Or just no identifier at all, as in "Take 10 west until you fall into the ocean and you're there"?
Kevin's wondering why this is the case. Someone apparently speculates that maybe it came from some kind of Spanish usage, given California's history, but since we do that here too, could Orange County have been originally populated by ex-pat Buffalonians? And given the constant stampede of Buffalonians to North Carolina, are they talking that way in Charlotte now?
All I can say to people not living in Buffalo is this: Youse all sure do talk funny.