in/on the street(s)

One reading in the textbook, on mega-cities, said that the people of Mexico City ‘live their lives in the street’. One student, obviously thinking about the homeless people around Sydney’s CBD, asked what that meant. The reading goes on to mention taco stands, people meeting and socialising, Mariachi bands and people of all ages dancing in the street. My usual question is ‘Is this a good things or a bad thing?’.

There may be distinctions between living life ‘in the street’, ‘in the streets’, ‘on the street’ and ‘on the streets’. Google Ngrams shows that those four are about equally used. It would be necessary to consult an appropriate corpus to find out which ones are more used to mean ‘party atmosphere’ and which ‘homelessness’ (among other meanings).

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3 thoughts on “in/on the street(s)

  1. During the last week of 1993 and the first two weeks of 1994 I was working in Mexico on a commercial shoot. The bulk of that time was spent in the city of Zacatecas, which is also the capital city of the Mexican state of the same name. I’ve also spend a fair amount of time in Tijuana, Rosario, and Cancun. It would be accurate to say that, as far as my experience has shown, Mexicans do live a good deal of their lives on the streets, sidewalks, and public plazas of their cities, towns, and villages. From what I observed, and even took part in, it seems obvious that not only is this a good thing, but also a necessary thing.
    I could go on to explain in some detail why, but that wasn’t part of the question.

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