WAYS AND MEANINGS.

It is a curious fact that there are no alleys in the city of Pittsburgh. Like most facts, this one is not true except in a meaningless technical sense: that nothing in Pittsburgh is officially called an alley. Some alleys are called “street” or “avenue” (for that matter, many a concrete or wooden stairway is called “avenue”), but the usual name for an alley is “way.”

It has occurred to Dr. Boli more than once that the standards for naming these “ways” are different from the standards for naming streets. Street names usually have to have some marginal attachment to meaning. Sometimes there is a theme: the Mexican War Streets, for example, are so called because they are named for battles in the Mexican War; the streets in Bellevue are named for Civil War generals; the streets in West View are named for universities and colleges; and so on. Sometimes streets are named for trees or flowers. Sometimes they are named for things that used to be there, like an old estate on which a city neighborhood was built.

But “ways” seem to be named as often as not by flipping open a dictionary or encyclopedia at random and pointing at a word blindfolded. Here, in no order at all, is a list of “ways” in Pittsburgh whose names have at various times struck Dr. Boli as odd or amusing:

Woolslayer Way
Cabinet Way
Lycurgus Way
Asteroid Way
Sewer Way
Pitcher Way
Crooked Way
Gypsum Way
Equator Way
Comet Way
Fred Way
Urn Way
Telegraph Way
Vanilla Way
Relic Way
Livery Way
Alhambra Way
Asterisk Way
Parody Way
Archon Way
Alcove Way
Lunar Way
Pandora Way
Appian Way
Plummet Way
Revision Way
Highnote Way
Investor Way
Pontoon Way
Minor Way
Repeal Way
Petite Way
Caress Way
Rope Way
Brim Way
Press Way
Boer Way
Saturn Way
Cameo Way
Betty Jane Ralph Way
Quartz Way
Legion Way

Now, for the sake of absolute honesty, Dr. Boli will note that one of those odd names has a foundation in history. Rope Way was a rope walk two hundred years ago: a rope factory was set up next to it, and a long straightway was necessary for pulling the strands straight and twisting them together. Perhaps some of these other ways have similar histories: perhaps they ran past manufactories of asteroids or betty jane ralphs. But Dr. Boli does not know those histories, so the names remain inexplicable to him.

Comments

  1. von Hindenburg says:

    I’d hoped that Relic Way would be near St. Anthony’s in Troy Hill, but it would make too much sense to have such an alley adjacent to the world’s second largest collection of Catholic relics.

    • Dr. Boli says:

      It seems to Dr. Boli that it is fair to call the St. Anthony’s collection the largest in the world. We often hear that it is second after the Vatican’s, but the Vatican is a whole neighborhood with the relics distributed in various churches, chapels, museums, parking garages, convenience stores, and so on. There is no single pile of saints to equal the one at St. Anthony’s.

  2. RepubAnon says:

    I guess there’s no Sinatra fans on the naming committee – otherwise, there’d be a “My Way”

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