Michael McKernan mckernan at LOCALNET.COM
Mon Apr 10 19:19:13 UTC 2006

Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:

>... what's at issue
>here is a difference between technical/administrative/legal usages
>and ordinary-language usages.  yes, there are jurisdictional units
>labeled "villages" in several states, but no ordinary person resident
>in one of these places would say that they lived "in a village",
>unless the administrative designation was what's at issue.
>the New York administrative usages produce some very odd results.
>the Wikipedia entry for "Perry (village), New York" tells us that:
>Perry is a village located mostly inside the Town of Perry in Wyoming
>County, New York, USA. As of the 2000 census, the village had a total
>population of 3,945.
>The Village of Perry is at the junction of Routes 39 and 246. A small
>south section of the village is within the Town of Castile.
>i looked up Perry because i have a friend who lives on a farm outside
>it and owns a bookstore in town (as they say).   she does talk about
>going "(in)to town" or "to the village", but when asked where her
>bookstore is, she tells people it's "in a little town south of
>Rochester", not "in a little village".

I beg to differ.  People in Vermont, and I suppose elsewhere, regularly use
the term 'village.'  It means a (relatively small) population center, or
developed area.  Here, 'town' is a geo-political area, sometimes as large
as 80 square miles or so, incorporated with a charter from the State of
Vermont.  While people do also say things like 'I'm going to town...', they
are just as likely to say 'I'm going down to the village...' where there
might be a few stores, a post office, a school.

As Arnold's Perry, NY example demonstrates, a population center village may
straddle the geopolitical borders of two (or more) towns.  Also, within the
boundaries of a town, there may be several different villages (population
centers).  Contrary to Arnold's assertion, ordinary people here in Vermont
quite often say they live 'in a village' (particulary when it's true!) or
that they live near a village, etc.  I live in the part of Westminster, VT
known as 'Westminster West,' but I don't live in the village of Westminster
West (the developed population center), but instead in a rather isolated
area a few miles from the village.  Westminster also contains several other
villages North Westminster (also known as Gageville, and geo-socially a
neighborhood of Bellow Falls, VT), and 'The Village' (or 'The East
Village,' or simply 'Westminster'), where the central elementary school and
town hall are.

Larry Horn wrote:

>As noted, I'm not disputing the use of "village" as an official
>designation for townships--this is a practice in much of the country,
>including Long Island, where I partly grew up.  I'm talking only
>about the use of "village" descriptively, in contexts like
>"I come from a small (picturesque,...) village in the foothills."
>"There a quaint village near here worth visiting."
>AHD4 provides the relevant distinction:
>1. A small group of dwellings in a rural area, usually ranking in
>size between a hamlet and a town.
>2. In some U.S. states, an incorporated community smaller in
>population than a town.
>It's #1 I'm discussing, not #2.

On definition #2 (and Larry's formulation of what he's NOT interested in):
I quibble with this uninteresting part just to note that in Vermont (and
probably elsewhere), 'village' is definitely NOT 'an official designation
for townships,' but rather, for population centers which may occur within
the geopolitical boundaries of towns/townships.

Also on the AHD-4 definition #2:  in Vermont, population size is irrelevant
(though since multiple villages may exist within a town, villages are
usually smaller in population than the town...but when they overlap several
towns, villages might in fact be larger in population than one or more of
the towns involved.)  What matters most (within this particular definition)
is that 'village' refers to a population center, while 'town' in its
legal/administrative sense refers to a geographical area, regardless of
population center(s).

On #1:  it may well be that 'ordinary people' living in areas where the
distinctions of #2 (or the legal/administrative distinctions found in
Vermont and elsewhere) are not in use, do not have use for the term
'village,' and don't use it, even 'descriptively.'  Here in Vermont,
however, 'village' is in everyday use.

I remember wondering, back when Hillary Clinton was promoting the
(borrowed) idea that 'It takes a village to raise a child,' what she knew
about villages, and where she expected to find them for all the children
that were born in cities, etc.   Seemed to me that the world was being
divided into the 'have village' people and the 'have no village' people...
Here in VT, we 'got village'.

Michael McKernan

The American Dialect Society -

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