Main Street / High Street / highway

The use of Main Street and High Street is an example of the divergence of North American and British English. While both terms can be found on either side of the Atlantic, the former is more common in North America and latter in the UK. Both are terms for the principal road in a town, and both have become metonyms for aspects of urban life. In this case, the divergence appears to be the result of a Darwinian selection process—the need for new street names in North America opened up a lexical niche that coincided with a shift in the meaning of the adjectives main and high, which favored main as the choice for the new roads.

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