Well, so much for settling the debate about the origin of the term “devil strip.”

Last week, I wrote that the best explanation I have heard came from retired Akron traffic engineer Bryon Sturm:

When West Virginians flooded into Akron to work in the rubber factories, they tried to scare their kids into staying out of the street by calling the grass between the sidewalk and the street the “devil strip.”

I also quoted a nationally known forensic linguist as saying the term was unique to Akron.

Au contraire, said plenty of readers.

A female caller who declined to give her name insisted — absolutely insisted — the term originated during World War II, when two and three families were living in the same house while working different shifts in the war factories.

Women were flooding into the workplace then, she said, so mothers wanted to make sure the children wouldn’t venture into the street.

But other readers say the term predates the war by decades. Some also say it is not exclusive to Akron.

Among the latter is Hudson resident Robert Cunningham:

“I was born and raised in Parkersburg, W.Va., and that strip of land there was always known as the ‘devil strip.’ Thus I have never been able to understand why the term is supposedly used only in Akron, Ohio.”

Rita Snook claims the term originated with the Iron Horse:

“A ‘devil strip’ is railroad slang for the strip of land between two sets of railroad tracks.

“Years ago, the city of Cuyahoga Falls removed the train tracks that ran on Second Street and the trolley tracks from Front Street and the trolley turnaround on Broad Street and replaced them with a ‘highway’ road.

“For safety purposes, a law was written to require a ‘devil strip’ between any new ‘highway’ and a sidewalk. So, devil strip became codified into city law.

“By the way, the city covered the turnaround with dirt, and Broad Street then became Broad Boulevard. …

“I’m pretty sure that old newspapers from the Falls have used ‘devil strip’ prior to the influx of West Virginia rubber workers.”

Or maybe the term is even older.

A colleague pointed me toward the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, which lays things out this way:

“Many communities come to feel that a particular idiom of colorful expression is restricted to use in their locality. A case in point is the term ‘devil’s strip’ for the grass strip between the sidewalk and the curb, which seemed to be used only in Akron, Ohio.”

“Later, other readers reported having heard it in Toledo and other parts of Ohio — but it still seemed a very local idiom.

“Then, however, came word of use of ‘devil strip’ in a somewhat different connection many years ago in Canada.

“?‘When I was a mere lad in 1906,’ wrote Leighton M. Long of Bowling Green, Ohio, ‘my folks moved from off the farm to the city of Toronto. As you know, Toronto is famous for its surface cars. I recall very vividly being warned that when crossing the street I must be careful not to be caught in the ‘devil’s strip.’

“This was the center path between street cars going in opposite directions. The cars passed so close to each other that there was simply no standing room between them.

“At that time, Toronto was populated mainly by immigrants from England, Ireland and Scotland, so very likely the name devil’s strip … originated in the auld country.’?”

OK, here’s an idea: Let’s forget the whole thing and just call it a “tree lawn.”

Making amends

Let the record reflect that one Stephanie Wei phoned her least favorite columnist last week and apologized for ripping Akron on her Twitter account.

If you missed it, Wei, who was among the 355 journalists from 11 countries covering the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, tweeted a friend who had asked about her plans, saying she was “still in the arsehole of America, Akron.”

I didn’t think that was very neighborly of her, and wrote a column to that effect.

The column circulated widely, and she caught some nationwide heat. Among those who expressed their displeasure was Jim Herre, managing editor of the Sports Illustrated Golf Group, for whom she has been a contributor.

Howard fans

Speaking of Firestone … on four occasions, viewers of CBS’ coverage could have heard shouts of “Baba Booey!” soon after a golfer hit his shot.

Nice to know Howard Stern’s influence hasn’t waned since his move to satellite radio.

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com.