Let's peer into the Answer Man mailbag
to see what's fluttering around in
On May 17, Answer Man asked whether anyone could recall an old poem that laid out in memorable fashion the order of Washington's streets. The answer is: nope. No one can remember it, if it ever existed at all. But we did get lots of other advice for navigating the nation's capital.
June Ericsson of Gaithersburg wrote: "I'll always remember that when I was a newcomer to Washington, almost 50 years ago, a cabdriver gave me this tip on finding my way around: 'The numbers go north and south, the alphabet goes east and west and you can't trust the states!' I've shared this bit of wisdom many times."
Oh those pesky states. The most that can be said of them is that the avenues are pretty much diagonal and that they connect traffic circles or squares. Everything else, though, is pretty elegant: Numbered streets run north-south; lettered streets run east-west. After W Street in Northeast and Northwest, things get alphabetical, with two-syllable names (Adams, Bryant), then three-syllable names (Allison, Buchanan), then the names of trees (Aspen, Butternut). Things aren't quite so neat on the eastern bank of the Anacostia, but streets are roughly alphabetical there, too.
(The same thing holds in Arlington: You climb the alphabet and add syllables as you move west.)
Scott McClure of Fairfax County said he didn't know the street poem, but he did commit to memory something he saw in the "StationMasters" books, those handy map guides to the neighborhoods around Metro stops. "StationMasters" suggests the mnemonic "EKPU" to help recall the address ranges of downtown streets.
The 500 block of a numbered street begins at E Street, the 1000 block at K, the 1500 at P, and the 2000 block at U Street.
Wrote Scott: "I don't know who thought it up, but it does work and has come in handy more often than I thought it would. . . . Now if someone can just think of a way to decipher the D.C. taxicab zone map."
Dream on, Scott.
The May 31 Answer Man column was about the derivation of the Georgetown University cry "Hoya Saxa." It's supposedly Latin/Greek for "What rocks!" and an evocation of an early GU team known as the Stonewalls.
Denise Jobin Welch (School of Foreign Service, Class of '88) wrote that this complicated etymology can lead to some deliberately obtuse explanations of the team's nicknames.
"To people we don't like, especially opposing teams," wrote Denise, "the conversation goes exactly as you guessed: 'Hey you, in the blue and gray sweatshirt!'
"'Yes, can I help you?'"
"'What's a Hoya?' "
Said Denise: "The G.U. alum smirks, says, 'Yes,' and walks away."
(Think about it.)
And in response to the desperate reader who said I'd left out a critical bit of information in my citation of the Oct. 28, 1894, Post article that first mentioned the rallying cry "Hoya Saxa!" during a Georgetown-Swarthmore football match: Swarthmore lost, 22 to 18.
On June 7, we lifted the lid on the strange silos near Michigan Avenue and North Capitol Street, remnants of a defunct water treatment plant.
It reminded Mitchellville's Carolyn Pierce of a running joke in her cousins' family. "Whenever they drove past there," Carolyn wrote, "they would say it was the Martian Embassy."
Something similar was going on in the car of Mervin Ward's father, a Government Printing Office employee. "We would drive past the [treatment plant] and ask what it was," wrote Merv, of Riverdale. "He would tell us it was a manhole farm and they grew manholes there."
Merv said that many years later his wife asked the same question and Merv gave her the same answer. "She fell hook, line and sinker."
Answering the Call
Answer Man accepts no payment for the service he provides to the community. Or rather, he accepts no payment beyond the generous salary provided to him by The Washington Post. But if you've ever been enlightened or entertained by his erudition, why not donate to the Send a Kid to Camp campaign?
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