I work with people who live in suburbs that are located far from the city (as opposed to just outside the city limits). I've noticed that when they talk about people "living downtown", they don't mean people who live within the limits of this map, but *anywhere* in the city.

For instance, I was talking to someone, and they said they have a friend who lives "downtown." I assumed the person lived near The Loop (south of the river) or north of the river, but no further than Division Street. "No," they said, "they live in Wrigleyville." That's over 30 blocks north of Madison and State, which is where the address numbers start for north/south and east/west. That's not downtown. But I guess for people living way outside the city, anything that's not considered a suburb is downtown (though now that I think about it, there was one person who considered Oak Park, a suburb immediately west of the city, as "downtown").

So when I tell them that I live "downtown" I have to explain that I don't just live within the city limits. They often say, "Wow, you really *do* live downtown" (though I don't live in The Loop).


Jon Konrath said...

I've noticed a lot of weirdness about the use of the word downtown in Manhattan. When I lived in Washington Heights, anything below my subway stop was sortof downtown. Like going to work in Midtown involved going "downtown", but Midtown wouldn't be considered downtown by someone at Wall Street. I think it's less of a problem here because there's so much brand identity in different neighborhoods.

I think a bigger linguistic issue is the New York vs. New York City issue. People in the city say they live in "New York" meaning both the city and the state. But when someone from, say, Michigan asks me where I live and I say "New York", they ask for further clarification. And to be fair, I could live in Albany or Buffalo or something. There's also the issue that other boroughs, like Queens or Brooklyn, are strongly stuck with their labels, but they are part of New York City. I lived in Queens for six years, and people would ask "oh, isn't that near New York City?" Well, it *is* New York City - I mean, I paid NYC local taxes, right?

mj said...

People think of NYC as Manhattan. Which reminds me that I still have to do that "I'm from New York" post--it seems it's a status symbol out there, but here, no one cares.