A notable difference in British and American usage can be found in references to streets or roads. We would normally say, “I live on Parrish Road,” while the British would say, “I live in Parrish Road.” This sounds very strange to American ears–as if the speaker were saying they pitched a tent in the middle of a street. That oddness explains (to me) why the otherwise very language-sensitive lyricist of My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner, could not bring himself to call the song “In the Street Where You Live.”
I was therefore surprised to come on this sign in Philadelphia yesterday:
I would have expected it to say “NO PARKING ON THIS STREET.” It prompted me to do some research with the Google Ngram Viewer tool, which produced this graph:
The three lines represent the relative frequency with which the phrase “live on that street” has appeared in American books (red), and the phrase “live in that street” has appeared in British (green) and American (blue) books. “Live on that street” has apparently never appeared in a British book. (I used “that street” instead of “the street” because “live in the street” has in both countries [I believe] an additional meaning–basically, being homeless.)
The interesting takeaway, for me, is looking back at 1940 or so. Apparently U.S. usage up till that time still followed the British model of “in the street,” after which the “on” phrasing steadily gained popularity, coming out on top in about 1950.
I guess Philadelphia doesn’t change its street signs very often