In a new york minute
Highlands TodayHave you ever noticed that, in American conversational English, many ideas are expressed in terms of streets and landmarks in New York City? These references have become so common we tend to forget that they are indeed real places.
Published: October 3, 2010
Published: October 3, 2010
If I mention Wall Street, everyone knows automatically that I'm referring to America's primary financial district, not the actual, physical street by that name. We know that Wall Street is the location of the New York Stock Exchange and most of the major American banks and brokerage houses - all those people we love to bash and blame for our financial woes.
If I refer to something as being very "Madison Avenue," you know that it has something to do with the world of advertising, promotion, and sales hype. That's because New York City's Madison Avenue, and the neighborhood around it, are where nearly all the nation's largest and most influential advertising and public relations firms are located.
The world of live theater, whether we're talking New York, Chicago, or Sebring, is referred to as Broadway, after the actual street at the center of New York City's Theater District. Everything theater happens somewhere around Broadway and 42nd Street. In fact, the quintessential production that defines musical theater is a show called "42nd Street." In 1933 it was a movie starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell and introducing a newcomer, Ginger Rodgers. She played a New York chorus girl who gets her big break in a Broadway musical and becomes a superstar.
In Americanese, if I describe something as "Park Avenue all the way," everyone understands that I mean it's the best and most expensive of its kind. That's because the most expensive high society real estate in the nation is along New York City's Park Avenue. It's also why General Motors named their top of the line Buick the Park Avenue.
If I mention 7th Avenue, fashionistas the world over know I'm talking about the world of haute couture. New York City's Garment District, at 7th Avenue and 40th Street, is where all of the top American designers have their headquarters. It's home to Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Vera Wang and dozens of others, as well as the site of all of the biggest gala fashion premiers every season. Thus, anything high fashion is "7th Avenue."
If I mention Central Park, everyone knows I'm talking New York City. Many American cities may have a park by that name, but New York's is the only one I can reference with no need to name the city at all.
I've heard all these references for years and never really thought about how many there are and how they tie us all to New York City. I'm noticing them lately because now my son lives there. For his sake I'm also trying to educate myself about the city.
I've always known that New York City has five Burroughs, but, until recently, I could not have named them. Now that my son lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan, I have taken the time to put to memory that the others are Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island, and that Long Island is not a part of the city. I've also learned that the hip hangouts for artists and musicians are SoHo, Greenwich Village, and parts of Chelsea, which are not Burroughs, but neighborhoods.
Very "uptown" of me, don't you think? Oh, and by the way, that also is a reference to New York City, where uptown is the northern sector of the city and downtown is south. That, too, has carried over to the rest of the country. I guess it really is true, "as New York goes, so goes the nation."
Finally, there is now a new term that can only refer to New York City - "Ground Zero." I hope Americans will always remember where that is and what it signifies for us all. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to another common phrase, "in a New York Minute."