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December 8, 2007

Broadcast dudes, dudettes: Calling highways 'the 5' or whatever? Fail

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but slowly and insidiously, Northern California culture is being corrupted by LA-speak.

I can accept a "fer sure" casually tossed out in conversation, and on occasion I even enjoy referring to a male friend or relative as "dude."

But I draw the line at highway designations. It's Interstate 5 or "I-5," not "the 5" as Angelenos say. It's Highway 101 or "101" that runs down the San Francisco Peninsula, not "the 101."

The dudes and babes of Los Angeles have a peculiar way of referring to their highways, always by number and always preceded by the definite article "the." Here's a typical LA conversation:

Dude No. 1: How do I get to Mel Gibson's house?

Dude No. 2: You, like, take the 110 to the 5 to the 134 to the 101 to the 405 to the 10 to PCH and hang a right at Malibu.

Dude No. 1: Awesome. Peace out.

Maybe you haven't noticed, but such smog-addled dialect has been infiltrating our airwaves.

Commercials on San Francisco radio stations urge listeners to "take the 101 freeway" to buy mattresses in Burlingame or cars in Mountain View. That innocent little "the" is the telltale sign that the commercial was recorded in LA.

It's bad enough that such LA expressions air in the Bay Area, but now they're streaming over Altamont Pass into the valley.

A traffic reporter whose broadcasts are carried by a couple of Modesto stations annoyingly refers to accidents on "the 5" near Los Banos and Patterson. Even worse, she referred to that lovely ribbon of road running from Escalon to Sonora to Yosemite as "the 120."


While listening to a 49ers game, I heard a commercial directing car shoppers to "take the 205 to Tracy."


I can just imagine the guy cutting that commercial down in Van Nuys. He's 60 years old, sporting a Hawaiian shirt, goatee and a salt-and-pepper ponytail. He doesn't know the difference between Tracy and Torrance, or Hilmar and Hermosa Beach.

He's clueless. And he's corrupting us.

Once we give in to LA highway descriptions, it's only a matter of time before we get 12-lane freeways, metering lights, Sig alerts and two-hour commutes.

Let's keep this valley pure and our highways as God intended them: narrow, bumpy and shrouded in fog.


Managing Editor Dan Day, who knows Vernalis from Venice Beach, can be reached at 578-2332 or He blogs at

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