Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mapping the Oddities

Jackson Hole sure sounds cool, but there is no "Jackson Hole, Wyo."
-- the city that gives the area its name is simply Jackson. There's also no "La Jolla, Calif." -- La Jolla is a section of San Diego. I hope we all know that the Pentagon isn't in Washington, but what about all those casinos on the Las Vegas Strip? Not in Las Vegas; try unincorporated Clark County.

Whether to go all copy-editor on people's asses about such things is another question, of course. I think the Jackson fact is worth enforcing, but you could argue that La Jolla is grandfathered in, the same way "Hollywood, Calif." exists in spite of its nonexistence. I would argue back that we shouldn't say "La Jolla, Calif.," the same way we don't say "Georgetown, D.C." But I would let the Las Vegas casinos be Las Vegas casinos.

"Wimbledon, England" also gets the Hollywood exception, I think, even though technically it's more like "the Wimbledon village of London," but I don't favor rolling over so easily for other violations of the city-state and city-country syntax. Brooklyn, N.Y.? Oh, all right -- it once was a city. But there's no Queens, N.Y., or Bronx, N.Y., or Staten Island, N.Y., or Long Island, N.Y. Go ahead and use "Bayside, Queens" and "Sayville, Long Island" for New York street cred, but screw the stylebook and give readers a little credit when it comes time to choose between a simple "Queens" or "Bronx" and "the Queens (or Bronx) borough of New York City."

"Darfur, Sudan"? No. It's the Darfur region of Sudan.

In a related note, my expertise on Scotland is a little shaky, but the "Gleneagles, Scotland" we keep hearing about as the location of the Group of Eight meeting appears to be a resort, not a city. The actual place that merits the comma-Scotland treatment seems to be either Perthshire or Auchterarder.

What have I left out? (Or screwed up?)

34 comments:

Shepcat said...

To borrow a line from comedian Greg Proops, "Hollywood isn't a town so much as an idea shared by a million assholes."

Steroid said...

Formerly of Sayville, now living in Moriches, I use "Long Island, NY" as a location identifier any place I expect people from outside the New York area to be reading. I don't say just "Long Island" for fear that someone will think of the Long Island in the Bahamas. And saying that I'm from Moriches, NY is apt to lead some people to thinking about the upstate area, which is a world away.

Charles said...

No "Bronx, NY"? Someone should tell the U.S. Postal Service, which seems to think there is.

I don't know if that has to have any bearing on what the stylebook says -- you don't make reporters write "Deutschland" -- but it's a data point.

MrVilhauer said...

My grandparents grew up in Jackson, WY, also known as Jackson's Hole -- then as Jackson Hole.

Saying "Jackson Hole, Wyoming" is a surefire way to announce that you are not "from 'round those parts."

Phillip Blanchard said...

You're apparently right about "Gleneagles." Using that as a dateline is like using "CAESARS PALACE, Nev."
"Perthshire" appears to be the equivalent of a county name; there is a town named "Perth" but it's unclear whether the hotel is in that municipality.

The Pedantic Prick said...

Maybe someone should also tell the post office that Brooklyn is no longer a city -- I live in the Bushwick neighborhood and all the mail my girlfriend, my neighbor, and I receive has "Brooklyn, NY" where the city and state should be.

Getting back to the general topic, I'm not sure if you're correct in demanding that the [place],[state] construction is only permitted for cities. The fact that the post office uses the comma one way (or does it? see above) doesn't mean you can restrict all these other potential uses. I think the deciding factor is whether or not people are going to think you're talking about a city if you write "Brooklyn, NY." I'd wager that most people already think of Brooklyn as a section of New York City, but would be confused if you started throwing the word "borough" at them? ("Is it a desk? A rabbit hole?")

Bill said...

Let's immediately discard the notion that anything the Postal Service says or does has anything to do with actual political or even traditional boundaries. The ZIP-code designation is useful as one bit of information, but it is by no means authoritative.

D.C.-area examples abound, but my favorite is the huge area of Virginia that is Tysons Corner. To the Postal Service, it doesn't exist. True, it has no official boundaries, as is true of many places in Virginia and Maryland, but it sure as hell exists. The Postal Service borrows adjoining names such as McLean, Vienna (a town that, unlike most sections of Fairfax County, actually HAS official boundaries) and Falls Church.

In fact, the name of Falls Church, a tiny, tony town that is politically separate from the county, is usurped by the Postal Service for a huge swatch of moderately close-in Fairfax County. And what isn't fake Falls Church in close-in Fairfax County is fake Alexandria, another case of borrowing from a legitimate city.

Bill said...

Swath. But they do have Swatch (R) brand wristwatches there.

•ch• said...

Hollywood isn't the only fake town in Los Angeles. I have lived in Van Nuys, Chatsworth, Woodland Hills, Lake Balboa and Northridge – without ever leaving L.A. When I lived in Northridge, I got junk mail addressed to me in Northridge, North Hills, Sepulveda, Granada Hills, San Fernando and Los Angeles.

I have never seen my "town" referred to as "the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles."

Bill said...

I work there. I carry a badge.

Kenneth said...

Shouldn't you be flying off the handle about Dulles, Va., by now?

Bill said...

Ah, yes. An airport is a city, but Tysons Corner (no, it's not just a shopping mall!) is not. As I said, many local examples.

Nessie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nessie said...

What happens in unincorporated Clark County stays in unincorporated Clark County.

markincolo said...

Wow, 14 (now 15) day-of-posting comments! Bill, you're Big Time (Big Time, D.C.?)
Wait a second ... what's this dateline on a Post story off the wire? Gleneagles, Scotland?

Bill said...

MYDESK, D.C. (BW) -- My winning percentage in such disputes at work is pretty pathetic. Maybe that's why I seek other outlets.

Peter Fisk said...

That’s a good point to remember about Jackson being the city and Jackson Hole being the valley, but I’d say there is such a place as Jackson Hole, Wyo., just as there is a Death Valley, Calif. It’s up to the style of individual papers, of course, but I don’t think we need to insist that the “place, state abbr.,” convention be entirely restricted to incorporated municipalities, especially when the reference is not a dateline.

Dr Zen said...

The English are not so anal about what they call their subdivisions. Wimbledon, England is fine (Wimbledon, UK is, of course, much better). Wimbledon is a locality (or suburb) in the borough of Merton in London but we commonly talk about the localities and seldom about the boroughs. The localities of London are quite distinct. Don't call Wimbledon "Wimbledon village in London" because Wimbledon Village is a small part of Wimbledon (the original village, actually) and you will not find the tennis centre there. If you were referring to it in a newspaper, you ought to write "Wimbledon, London, UK" on first reference although Surrey towns, such as Wimbleon, Kingston, Sutton and Croydon are sufficiently well known, distinct and large enough for English readers to know where they are without being told they are in London.

Gleneagles is named after the glen of the same name. If you addressed a letter to Gleneagles, UK, the postperson would find it. Large buildings of a certain type are not attributed to the villages they are near, because they are not felt to be part of the village as such.

Peter Fisk said...

Saying "Jackson Hole, Wyoming" is a surefire way to announce that you are not "from 'round those parts."

I have it on impeccable authority -- my sweetie, who was raised in Jackson and has brought me back there for several visits -- that the two leading ways to demonstrate you're a hopeless tourist there are:

A. Straddle your stool (saddle) at the Cowboy Bar.

B. Ask a local “Excuse me, where are the TEET-ins? Are those the TEET-ins over there?”

Bill said...

Wimbledon, U.K.? Really? That strikes me as akin, if not parallel, to "New York, North America."

Etaoin Shrdlu said...

For all the troubles that datelines can cause (and add this to the mix) how warranted are they any more? They've certainly evolved, which is why most datelines don't have dates anymore. I for one wouldn't mourn their relocation to Jackson Hole.

DavidUK said...

"Wimbledon, The British Isles" would actually be akin to "New York, North America". In each case you're talking about geographical regions, not political entities.

The country which Wimbledon inhabits is the United Kingdom [of Great Britain and Northern Ireland]. So "Wimbledon, UK" equates to "New York, USA".

England, (despite the howls of protest I'll get from some misguided patriots) is not a country, it's an administrative district of the United Kingdom. Saying "Wimbledon, England" is probably akin to saying "New York, New York".

JP said...

Regarding this topic, my pet peeve is the expression "upstate New York." New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers use it to refer to everyplace in the state north of New York City and Long Island. My beef with this is that these places make up such a small part of the state that they don't justify the classification of the rest of the state as "upstate." The area north of New York City and Long Island is simply the rest of the state; "upstate New York" should be limited to referring to the northern wedge of New York comprising the Adirondacks.

Nuclear Redaction said...

This is the sort of thing that's driven me crazy at every paper I've worked for, in New York state and in Pennsylvania.

Outside of larger cities, both states have a mix of smaller incorporated municipalities (villages in New York, boroughs in Pa., small cities in both) and unincorporated municipalities (towns in N.Y., townships in Pa.) that are essentially subdivisions of counties but which have their own local governments. Often a town(ship) and a village/borough/city within its limits share a name; often there are hamlets or whatever you want to call unincorporated settlements within the towns/townships that also share a name. Postal designations, school districts, etc., may or may not conform to the boundaries of these areas. We're constantly struggling to identify places in such a way that they will be meaningful to readers, but often, residents, businesses, institutions, etc., cloud the issue as well by picking whatever designation suits them, without regard to the actual boundaries involved.

--susan said...

I think part of the problem with non-US locations is that we are used to the city, state convention, however, people are mostly unfamiliar with the regions of other countries, and don't bother to check for accuracy.

Datelines should be city, state/region, country, IMO. Within an article or speaking generally, I think that place names which are not technically the name of the city are fine as you can establish the meaning of your usage through context. (But using the resort name is tacky, tacky, tacky.)

What the postal service says is irrelevant. They assign zip codes based on sometimes strange criteria (many examples in comments) but really, just try to get all of the mail delivered and will make an effort with almost anything that's understandable.

Le Petomane said...

Jackson Hole sure sounds cool, but there is no "Jackson Hole, Wyo." -- the city that gives the area its name is simply Jackson.

Jackson Hole, Wyo., is cool. So is Monument Valley, Utah.

And he town of Jackson did not give its name to Jackson Hole. The valley was named in 1829. The town was established -- and named -- in 1901 when a banker's wife bought the land and had it platted for settlement.

Someone can live in Jackson Hole, vacation in Jackson Hole and fly into Jackson Hole -- the airport is 12 miles from the town -- without ever setting foot in Jackson.

Steph said...

My pet peeve is referring to Columbine High School as being in Littleton, Colorado. Columbine High School is in unincorporated Jefferson County and not within the city limits of Littleton. The City of Littleton is in Arapahoe County.

Dave said...

Almost all writers sound like tourists when they confuse towns in the Florida Keys with island names: "On Marathon Key" (incorporated city of Marathon on Vaca Key, actually) or Islamorada Key ("Islamorada, Village of Islands" is the incorporated village that spans several islands, none of which are named Islamorada). Mercifully, the city of Key West really is on the island of Key West. Key Largo is a post office on the island named Key Largo ("Long Island"), but there's no town named Key Largo; it's unincorporated Monroe County.

Nasty Dan said...

Because we like to get picky here, I thought I would mention that technically it is not "New York, New York" or even "New York City, New York"; offically, it is "The City of New York, New York."

Ellie said...

In the UK, I would use "City, UK", "Town/Village, County", and "Locality, City". For instance, "London, UK", "Penzance, Cornwall", and "Clapham, London".

That would make the correct usage "Wimbledon, London", or "Wimbledon, London, UK". However since everyone knows that Wimbledon is in London, I would guess "Wimbledon, UK" is fine.

As Dr Zen said, Wimbledon itself isn't a village. We only have a few "Villages" in London, and these tend to be very small, historic and very wealthy parts of a larger locality. So "Wimbledon Village" is the oldest, wealthiest part of Wimbledon and "Highgate Village" is the poshest, prettiest bit of Highgate.

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rsp said...

To illustrate how unreliable ZIP code boundaries and postal designations are, consider the example of Centennial, Colorado - in 2001 it became the largest city to incorporate in U.S. history. The city is divided between seven ZIP codes, each of which either has "Aurora", "Englewood" or "Littleton" as its "default" place name. Thus, postally speaking, the city of Centennial and its 100,000 residents do not exist - they are postally part of Aurora, Englewood or Littleton: in the ZIP code directory, Centennial addresses are listed under these three cities. And since it is "acceptable" to write "Centennial" in conjunction with any of the seven ZIP codes, one can write "Centennial" in an address that is actually in Aurora or Littleton, for example, as long as it is in one of the shared ZIP codes.

Charles said...

I have been thinking about this for almost a year.

I recently bought "The Elephants of Style" at 347 Seventh Avenue in the dateline where I live. According to you, then, that's 347 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY.

Which I'm going to guess is a restaurant. I live in Brooklyn; that's where the bookstore is.

It's a very important distinction, since only one of those is an appropriate place to go if I'm bored.

That's not quite the same as "what does the post office think." It's a clear indication that in the minds of many -- of locals -- the two are distinct places. If Lakeview Drive goes through what the post office thinks of as 17 different communities all of which are part of the same political entity, I'd be fine with saying that 25018 Lakeview Drive is in the first, even if it's in the 17th. But if 35 Lakeview Drive, Place S is a different building than 35 Lakeview Drive, Place A, I'd go with Place S if that's where the events being related took place.