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Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Josh Knauer

Clearly places like Washington, DC are a good example of a geotaxonomy. You can always tell how far from the center of the city you are by the first letter of the cross streets, as well as how many syllables the names are. If you start on Connecticut Ave in MD from the beltway, you will find that there are three syllable street names that are ordered from Z to A which then cycle back to a two syllable Z-A order and then eventually down to the letters themselves (thus the famous "K" Street).

There's so much to admire about the planning involved in the layout of DC, but your post reminded me that its street probably represent a planned geotaxonomy that really works.



josh, thanks! i didn't know that!

the interstate system is also a planned geotaxonomy that would work if more people knew about it. east/west freeways have even numbers, and north/south have odd numbers. the numbers increase from west to east and north to south. route numbers divisible by 5 are the major routes.

the major routes have one or two digit numbers. auxiliary routes get three digits by adding an extra digit to the number of the highway they're attached to.

what's cool about this scheme for toponymy enthusiasts is that, even as young as the interstate system is, there are ghost names--names that indicate that there used to be a road nearby that isn't there anymore, or that has been renamed.

maybe i should write a post about it.

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  • The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and good bad books, create in one's mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life, and which in some cases can survive a visit to the real countries which they are supposed to represent.
    -- George Orwell

    Geography and space are always gendered, always raced, always economical and always sexual. The textures that bind them together are daily re-written through a word, a gaze, a gesture.
    -- Irit Rogoff

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