circling the block

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Hi,

I have been reading "Miss Hinch" by Henry Sydnor Harrison. There is a sentence which talks about block. I can't figure it out. Please help. There are the beginning sentences:
In going from a given point on 126th Street to a subway station at 125th, it is not usual to begin by circling the block to 127th Street, especially in sleet, darkness, and deadly cold.

Question: How do you go to 125th Street from 126th Street by circling the block to 127th Street? Circle what block? How to circle?

I drew a diagram, which depicted how I understand the position of each street. Here it goes.

Senior Member
Hi,

I have been reading "Miss Hinch" by Henry Sydnor Harrison. There is a sentence which talks about block. I can't figure it out. Please help. There are the beginning sentences:
In going from a given point on 126th Street to a subway station at 125th, it is not usual to begin by circling the block to 127th Street, especially in sleet, darkness, and deadly cold.

Question: How do you go to 125th Street from 126th Street by circling the block to 127th Street? Circle what block? How to circle?

I drew a diagram, which depicted how I understand the position of each street. Here it goes.

View attachment 32915
As well as the "vertical" roads, there are others that connect those you have shown.

A block in this context is, roughly, a building or buildings separated from other buildings by roads.

For a more precise definition for your context, please wait for an American English speaker.

JulianStuart

Senior Member
It is a relatively vague term. The dictionary definition is as good as any. In towns and cities where the streets are laid out in a grid, then the rectangular area enclosed by four streets is a block. They vary in size, depending on the grid layout.
a small section of a city, town, etc., surrounded by streets:They lived on my block when I was growing up.
In that thread, it i true that "it would not be usual to go round (circle) block 6 before going from block 5 to block 4". That is similar to the OP.

Last edited:

kentix

Senior Member
It really makes no sense, specifically or in general.

You might as well say

In going from a given point on 126th Street to a subway station at 125th, it is not usual to begin by traveling to California, especially in sleet, darkness, and deadly cold.

Sleet, darkness and deadly cold have nothing to do with it. You would never go to 127th street to get to 125th for any reason.

So maybe that's the context in the book. Is somebody following somebody else? Did the person being followed say that they were going to the subway (at 125th) but then they actually went to 127th street and the person following them was wondering why? If it was a cold night that would make it seem even more mysterious. People don't go out in the cold any longer than they have to usually. So whatever the person said they were doing is not what they were really doing.

Is anything like that happening in the book?

stephenlearner

Senior Member
More context:

In going from a given point on 126th Street to a subway station at 125th, it is not usual to begin by circling the block to 127th Street, especially in sleet, darkness, and deadly cold. When two people pursue such a course at the same time, moving unobtrusively on opposite sides of the street, in the nature of the things the coincidence is likely to attract the attention of one or the other of them.

In the bright light of the entrance of the tube(subway), they came almost face to face, and the clergyman took a good look at her....

stephenlearner

Senior Member
Upon re-thinking the words, I have a question: Is it possible that the position of each street looks like this:

JulianStuart

Senior Member
Is there remaining confusion? We know it is not usual to go away from your destination first and then go towards it. The English is not confusing, although the concept is strange. This is the meaning of the sentence: it is unusual for such a thing to happen. It sets the mysterious mood of the story.

JulianStuart

Senior Member
Upon re-thinking the words, I have a question: Is it possible that the position of each street looks like this:

View attachment 32925
The arrangement of streets in that drawing would never exist. Numbered streets are parallel and you have 126th at right angles to the other two. Not how it works.

Last edited:

stephenlearner

Senior Member
If my second drawing is wrong, then I can't figure out how a person circles the block to 127th Street, and then to the subway station at 125th Street.

kentix

Senior Member
As Julian says, all streets are parallel so that doesn't explain it. The part I don't understand is what street they were on the opposite side of.

kentix

Senior Member
If my second drawing is wrong, then I can't figure out how a person circles the block to 127th Street, and then to the subway station at 125th Street.
That's what's mysterious. The route they are taking is not obvious.

JulianStuart

Senior Member

This is from the other thread I linked to. Imagine they start on C street (=126th street). They go (right in the picture) to the right of block 3 and 6 (towards and then onto D Street= 127th street) - and "circle round" block 3 or 6 and then they are heading left towards the subway station on B street (=125th street). They go a long way round. That's why it is unusual (or as written "It is not usual")

kentix

Senior Member
But in that scenario, what street are they on the opposite side of?

JulianStuart

Senior Member
But in that scenario, what street are they on the opposite side of?
If they both take the 1st Avenue route, for example, one is on the north sidewalk (of block 3) and the other on the south sidewalk (of block 6) as they head right. To stay on opposite sides as they circle, one will have to cross streets (and become more obvious to the other, as the story notes)

Roxxxannne

Senior Member
This takes place in Manhattan at one of the three subway stops (on three different lines) that stop at 125th St (an approximately east-west street) and an approximately north-south avenue. The stop is not Broadway and 125th; the line is elevated there but the story mentions a 'tube,' so the station is underground.
So let's use the stop at 125th and Malcolm X Blvd (also called Lenox Ave.). Suppose the origin is a house on 126th close to Malcolm X Blvd., that is between Malcolm X Blvd. and the next avenue to the east, which is Fifth Ave. I walk 'around the block' to the subway stop by walking east to Fifth Ave. I take three left turns to go north on Fifth, west on 127th, and south on Malcolm X Blvd. and then I walk two blocks (from 127th to 125th) to the subway stop at 125th.
Note that I've walked around (most of ) only one block, and my path is the shape of a rectangle with a north-south 'tail' at the south west corner.

kentix

Senior Member
And do you think it's plausible that someone doing that would cross the street to be on the opposite (north) side of 127th street? And the opposite (west) side of Malcolm X? (While the second person didn't? And they stayed parallel? And arrived at the station at the same time? It seems like a lot to believe.)

Roxxxannne

Senior Member
Almost anything is plausible in New York City.
The story says it's 'not usual.' I consider that an understatement.

stephenlearner

Senior Member
This takes place in Manhattan at one of the three subway stops (on three different lines) that stop at 125th St (an approximately east-west street) and an approximately north-south avenue.
Did this story happen in New York City? I thought it happened in Great Britain, because tube is the British way of referring to a subway.

Edinburgher

Senior Member
It may not be usual, but it can sometimes be better if you are in a car. Returning to the diagram in #1, and assuming north is up, if your car is in the "you are here" spot, and if your departure point is on the east side of 126th Street (i.e. in the block between 126th and 127th), then your car would travel north initially.
Right turns are easier than left turns, and so it can be easier to make four right turns (by turning east onto Top Avenue (that would be 0th Aveue in the diagram in #12), south onto 127th Street, West onto Bottom Avenue (1st Avenue), crossing 126th, and finally going north on 125th) than to make two left turns (by turning west onto Top Avenue, and south onto 125th).

Of course if your departure point is on the west side of 126th (in the block between 125th and 126th), you would initially trave south on 126th, and you would have two easy right turns to get to the subway station. Then it would be rather daft to go the long way round with four left turns.

Roxxxannne

Senior Member
Did this story happen in New York City? I thought it happened in Great Britain, because tube is the British way of referring to a subway.
The story also mentions Broadway and 14th St., both streets in Manhattan. In addition the story mentions 14th St. as an express subway stop, which also matches reality. And one of the characters in the story calls himself an Episcopal minister; if it took place in the UK he would have said he was Anglican.
The story was published in 1911; maybe 'tube' was used in the US then. It's not clear whether 'in the entrance of the tube' is a synonym for subway or just a description of the shape of the station and the tunnel.

JulianStuart

Senior Member
Did this story happen in New York City? I thought it happened in Great Britain, because tube is the British way of referring to a subway.
The "tube" (today) is in London which has anything but a grid system of streets and such highly numbered streets - it cannot be London! Roxxxannne is right to point out the date 1911 and likely use of "tube" in NY - the first subway in NY was opened in 1904. The first "tube" train ran in London in 1863 and pople in NY could well have been referring to it with that name for a while.

kentix

Senior Member
I read the whole story (it's about 10 pages). And I enjoyed it, too. The English is for the most part quite modern. The setting seems old, but the English doesn't. It's clearly New York because of the street names and layouts and the fact that their final destination is Newark (New Jersey). It does appear that they called it the tube back then, at least sometimes.

As for the part quoted in the OP, those are literally the opening lines of the story. There is no clue what happened before that, or where either person is coming from specifically. But they are definitely walking. It's 1911 and even the police don't have cars (or radios).

I don't want to spoil the story because it's fun to read and it's a mystery, but it's sufficient say that the details of how they walked are not very important. They took an indirect route to the station which involved going north before going south in a way that's not clearly specified but involved going around one of those blocks as shown in the illustrations in earlier comments. When you reach the end of the story it all makes sense.

McClure's Magazine

Last edited:

Myridon

Senior Member
If my second drawing is wrong, then I can't figure out how a person circles the block to 127th Street, and then to the subway station at 125th Street.
One possible route: Starting at the circle and going to the subway enterance

a grid system of streets
Slightly off-topic, but Americans often refer to the distance between any two intersections as a block regardless of there being any sort of grid or streets crossing at right angles. I think many people are confused because a block is not always a rectangle and doesn't always refer the rectangle itself. When I was in London, I saw blocks everywhere because there are intersecting streets.
In the image above, we might say that there are long blocks going across and short blocks going up and down. Each rectangular block is also part of four distance blocks.

JulianStuart

Senior Member
One possible route: Starting at the circle and going to the subway enterance

View attachment 32949
The red trail represents one f them but someone will have to cross over a few times if the two are to remain on "opposite sides"all the time - this would draw attention of one to the other.

kentix

Senior Member
And even when there is a grid system, the streets aren't always numbered as in the story. Sometimes they just have names.

But block really does have two meanings in AE.
1) the area enclosed by four streets at right angles
2) the stretch of street from one intersection to the next, including the buildings on either side.

In this story, definition 1 is used.

JulianStuart

Senior Member
Slightly off-topic, but Americans often refer to the distance between any two intersections as a block regardless of there being any sort of grid or streets crossing at right angles. I think many people are confused because a block is not always a rectangle and doesn't always refer the rectangle itself. When I was in London, I saw blocks everywhere because there are intersecting streets.
In the image above, we might say that there are long blocks going across and short blocks going up and down. Each rectangular block is also part of four distance blocks.
(Additionally, there's an interesting study on grid systems here.)

< Previous | Next >