walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

When Word != Word


Feargus O'Sullivan describes moving from "inner London to a quiet, nondescript South Eastern suburb", which suburb in the article links to the wikipedia article on Forest Hill. Forest Hill in Great London would appear to bear the same relationship to the center of London as, say, Maple Leaf bears to the center of Seattle. Maple Leaf is not widely regarded within Seattle as a "suburb"; it is regarded as a "city neighborhood". I recognize all of these terms are highly variable in their use.

I have two problems with what O'Sullivan has to say in the article. There's the photo with the caption: "Artificial stone cladding, popular in the 1980s, is often considered a grave architectural crime, but I think it looks pretty amazing on this house."

Then there's his use of the term "suburb" -- unadorned by any mitigating qualifier -- to describe Forest Hill.

O'Sullivan seems to have a sense that the use of "suburb" vs. "city" might be problematic, particularly for a US-centric audience.

"I should point out here that London’s outer districts are quite different from the average American suburb. For a start, they’re often pretty old – areas built no later than the 1930s still abut fields along some stretches of the city’s limits. They also tend to have medium rather than low population density, with decent transport links and broad, walkable sidewalks that mean car ownership is desirable but not essential. What they share with the U.S. however is their sprawl"

This isn't sprawl in anything like the US sense. I wonder if he's even looked at a map of a city in the United States. Further, Forest Hill isn't a suburb under any definition of the term I can find -- it's nowhere near the edge of Greater London (and he doesn't claim it is, either). "it’s often said that it was the dullness of suburbs a few miles beyond mine that helped spawn Britain’s Punk movement." (Altho it _used_ to be a suburb a long time ago, at least a long time by Our Standards, and could thus be grandfathered in with words like "inner ring" or "older" or whatever.) If O'Sullivan were not writing for a US centric audience, I suppose I would just shrug, and chalk it up to linguistic variance.

In any event, what he did, why he did it, and why he's advocating that it's a great idea in general are all things I am in complete agreement with him about.
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