Dear PoP – Is It “U at 17th” or is it “17th & U”?

Photo by PoPville flickr user allengcarr

“Dear PoP,

There are many newcomers to the area who have a different way of designating street destinations than us native Washingtonians. I’m frequently hearing people say, “T at 18”, or “W at 13.” As a native, for some silly reason, this drives me crazy. I’m used to hearing people say, “17th & U” or “13 & T,” where the numbered street is always spoken first. Now people (and I’ve heard a number of newscasters and newspaper writers do this as well) are putting the letter street first – what’s up with that?

I can always tell if a person is a native by the way they designate the street locations during a conversation. What do you think of this as a light-hearted topic of discussion?”

I think we may have spoke about this at one point when I made this very mistake. I am 99.9% confident that it is always number first and letter second. For some reason when I’m talking to someone I always say the number first but when I’m typing I tend to want to write the letter or name first… What do you guys think? If you use the letter first is that a good tip off that you’re talking to a new resident?

62 Comment

  • The number should go first. Think of it in terms of specific addresses. You don’t say you live at U Street 1701….you say 1701 U Street. The same should go for intersections.

    • Cabellero,

      Staying on topic, and light hearted of course, note also that we here in America place house number first and then street as in:

      1701 U Street, NW

      where much of the rest of world does not, as an address in Paris is:

      Rue du Nord, 1701

      in Spain and Latin America:

      Calle del Norte, 1701

      • You’re right about Spain & Latin America, but I can assure you that in Paris, they form addresses just like we do.

  • I’m thinking that I don’t really give a damn how people say it. But it just sounds more natural to go with the numbered street first.

  • I grew up here and agree that the number goes first (Not sure it’s ever really bothered me though). But I don’t think it’s just a DC thing. I’ve spent some time in New York over the years where a lot of family is from and that was always the same in Manhattan. Crosstown number first, then up/downtown street or number next.

  • my knee-jerk reaction was to say this is stupid and who cares…. then, I thought about how national newscasters, tourists, newcomers to New Orleans, and general goof balls mispronounce *all sorts* of street names, place names, food items, festivals, and just about everything else that comes out of their mouths when talking about my hometown.

    They want to force a French twist on *everything*, which is just plain wrong. Anyway, I guess my point is: I feel your pain… sort of. I still think there are better things to worry about! 🙂

  • the way i say it depends on the street.

    if its at 1200 u street, i’ll say u at 12th

    but i’ll say 7th and e, or 14th and u, because, really, i follow no rules, BECAUSE I”M A TREE SLAUGHTERING MAVERICK!!!!!

  • Ha! This reminds me of my Californian friends when they come here to visit and ask if they should drive through town or take “the 495″…

    As someone who grew up in this area, I’ve found locals generally say the numbered street then the letter street, e.g. “17th & U”. It sounds more natural to me because that’s the way I’ve always heard it and said it.

  • As long as you don’t start using “pop” or “coke” as a term for soda in general, you can say whatever you want about the streets.

    And nobody in DC knows what a grinder is.

    • or a poboy.

    • I take offense to this. Coke can refer to (among other illegal activities) Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, or even Tab…

      • I remember in people in Texas do that. Everything is a coke to them…even Orange Crush.

      • if i was a waiter and you ordered a beer, i would ask you what kind.
        and if you ordered a coke, i would bring you a coke.

        if you complained because you really wanted a sprite, i would think you were “real simple”.

        • +1

          Coke is coke, not Pepsi.

        • it’s odd, I know, but you’d say ‘coke’ to mean basically any sort of soda-type beverage in conversation, but not when ordering at a restaurant. The vernacular drops away when you actually need to specify root beer vs orange fanta.

          • exactamundo. you’d only say ‘coke’ to a waiter if you wanted a coca cola.

          • Pretty much. One would use “coke” with family, friends, other familiar folks (i.e. Friend A: “I’m going to Allsup’s, you want anything?” Friend B: “Yeah, get me a coke.” Friend A: “What kind?” Friend B: “orange.”

            But in a restaurant setting, one knows to specify what coke one wishes to drink. Unless, I guess, one is very simple, as the previous poster noted.

          • Thank goodness others did it too. I thought it might have been only my weird family. I’ve had BeerDude’s exact conversation before if only you substitute Allsup for something else.

      • Emmaleigh504

        My favorite coke is Mountain Dew.

    • I’ll never stop saying pop, it’s the last piece of the midwest I can’t let go of.

      • don’t let go of your Midwest-ness! Y’all are the nicest folks outside of the south!

        The only times I’ve ever been able to successfully strike up an easy-going conversation with a stranger (on the metro, on the street, whatever), they always turned out to be from either the south or the Midwest. We need more of that!

    • ah

      Sure. I’ll have a tonic with it.

    • my boston family would call all carbonated beverages “seltzer”. but of course pronounced “seltzah”.

    • Get over it. It is Sodapop, different regions shorten it different ways. No one was injured in the process. You’ll be ok.

    • Or why they should be considered either “wicked good” or “wicked bad” – and that both can be positive ratings!

      Back OT: I always use the numbered street first – even when giving my destination to a cab driver (e.g., “I’m on Decatur, bewteen 5th and Kansas).

    • goaldigger

      I grew up in RI so I know what a grinder is (as well as a cabinet).


  • a way to spot tourists with more certitude is to see what they do on a metro escalator. even better, if they exit a metro car while clutching a family member’s shirt, apparently out of fear of getting left behind or lost. but on point, number first, then letter or full name if you’re further up the grid (ie, 14th and Columbia).

  • down with trees. I killed the Lorax! … and boy did he fry up real good!

  • i would always say the actual street something is on first and the cross street second. seems to avoid a lot of confusion.

  • If you have to say more than once that you’re a “native Washingtonian” then you aren’t ;-p

    I only say something like “U at 17th” if I don’t really know where on U St I’m trying to describe. So I’ll say “It’s at U St near 17th” or “U St between 16th and 17th.” But otherwise it’s numbered street first.

    This is also because I work regularly with the city’s Master Address Repository and the rules there are, when dealing with an intersection, numbered street goes first. If neither street is numbered, you go by alphabetical order, i.e. North Capitol St & Rhode Island Ave, or Albemarle St & Wisconsin Ave.

      • really only native dc people care who is native.
        and even then, only ones with chips on their shoulders.

        i don’t even care who is native to this country. or this continent. or earth. if you’re cool, you’re cool by me.

        • I always thought it was cool how people in Phoenix say that something (for example) is “on the southwest corner of 7th and Glendale”. Of course, I guess cardinal directions make more sense in some cities than in others.

          Also in AZ, “Native” seems to be the preferred nomenclature for Native Americans referring to themselves or other Native Americans. As in, “He’s from Tuba City? I didn’t know that he’s Native”

          • Arizonans also say “the 101” or “the 202.” I picked up the habit when I lived there but dropped it when I came back to DC.

  • The liquor store on the corner of that intersection is at 17th & U. The 3rd District police station is on U at 17th.

    For me, the numbers go first unless I’m giving specific directions.

  • I always say the street that the place is *on* first. I didn’t grow up here but I think it’s a good way to give directions.

  • Am I just retarded here?

    If the place I’m talking about is on U St, then I say “U Street by 17th”
    But if it’s on 17th St, then I say “17th St by U”

  • don’t you people have jobs?

  • As the person who, with a light heart, suggested this topic I assure you that I’m a D.C. native – lived here all of my 54 years. Don’t know is that’s good or bad – it just is.

    Sorry, I probably should have read and re-read my email before sending it to PoP for consideration but didn’t catch the two references to “native.” Anyway, I’m glad that the topic got so many comments – just goes to show that there are a lot of light-hearted folks out there – native or otherwise.

  • Yeah, I have a job. I’m at work right now.

  • DC is built on a x/y axis. Numbered streets are the x axis, lettered, the y. Like any coordinate on a cartesian graph, you call it out using (x,y). L’enfant was a Descartes fan homey.

  • I always find either way to be confusing and always specify more by saying for ex. On 14th between U and T…or wherever it is I’m decribing. Or on P between 14th and 16th.

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