Saturday, July 11, 2009

City, Town, Village

One of the many things that bothers me is they keep calling Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin was once mayor, a city. Wasilla is so tiny in Southern California it wouldn't even qualify as a neighborhood. So, as my muse, Marina Orlova, would say, Word of the Day must investigate.

City - From the Latin civitas, meaning community of citizens. The Latin word for city was urbs. In England a city has the specific definition of a town large enough to contain a bishopric see.

Town - Smaller than a city. From the Old English tun, meaning a walled village. The English definition is a community large enough to support a permanent market but too small to require a bishop.

Village - From the Latin word
villaticum, meaning large farmstead. The word villa has the same root. The English define a village as large enough to have its own church but too small to support a market.

Hamlet - A little ham (the Old French word for village), a little village. The English define a hamlet as a collection of homes large enough to have its own identity but too small even to have a church.

American English does not have such clear demarcations as the mother tongue. We do agree that a city is larger than a town which is larger than a village which is larger than a hamlet.

To me, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Anchorage are cities. Juneau is on the small side but a city nonetheless because of it importance, holding the state government is kind of like having a bishop. Wasilla, at under 10,000 population, is just not significant enough to qualify as a city. Sorry guys, Wasilla is only a town.

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