Monday, June 7, 2010

Blimey! Pretentious Wankers At NYT Real Estate Section Now Refer To Apartments As "Flats."

The NYT appears to have introduced a bizarre style change in its Real Estate section: it now uses the British expression "flat" to describe apartments.

Is this a jolly good idea, or some numpty's idea of a joke?

Or maybe it's all part of the NYT's fevered competition with a certain wrinkly Australian bloke who owns a British media outlet or two.

From a photo caption on page 4:

Rodrigo Garcia, a hospital administrator, rents a flat in a town house on a block acclaimed for its architecture.

From a caption on page 8:

Jordan Cooper is a founder of JumpPost, a new Web site that gives subscribers a heads-up about flats that will soon be available.

From a caption on page 9:

A flat on East 74th was smaller than the old one, but just as pricey.

Dictionaries -- American ones, that is -- refer to the real-estate usage of "flat" as "chiefly British," if they refer to it at all.

It appears that the usage of "flat" in the real-estate section began just last month -- during the last fortnight, to be exact.

It popped up a couple of times in Joyce Cohen's column, "The Hunt," in reference to a "ground-floor flat" and a "railroad flat." A May 23 headline reported that "Jessica Hecht Buys Flat In Landmark Building."

Yesterday appears to mark the first time the word "flat" (for apartment) crept into standard usage at the NYT, which tends to avoid British slang in print. But you know how it is with pretentious wankers, sometimes they can't help themselves!


Anonymous said...

My grand parents lived in middle class homes in Chicago from 1900-1980s. When I visited there in the 70s, my mother called one of the homes a "two flat" because the first and second floors were second apartments. My grandparents did not even speak English in their house regularly and certainly never learned the Queen's english.

Not snooty city + not snooty neighborhood + not snooty grandparents (clerks) = not snooty.

Just because the Queen uses some word doesn't make it uppercrust.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you on this one. Though it sounds fussy at first, it just seems odd for them to use British English words. If that's the case then they need to refer to hallways as corridors, sidewalks as pavement, big rigs as lorries, etc.

They should at least be consistent!

Anonymous said...

there is English and American English. No such thing as British english.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the "spot on." So odd that phrase has emerged.

It just looks stupid for American writers writing for an American publication to use British idioms or words used almost exclusively in Britain.

More words they'll have to change if they use "flats" instead of "apartments"

highway = motorway
chips = crisps
fries = chips
cell phone = mobile phone

those copy editors better get cracking!

Anonymous said...

The Times seems to love the Britain. They displayed quite prominently on their home page as well as some prime A1 space to the recent British election. I don't remember them doing the same for other countries. Or have they?

Yet oddly, their reports from Britain contain little original reporting. It's always along the lines of "the BBC reported..." or "John Smith told The Telegraph..."

JV said...

Dear NYT Picker,

Did you catch this CS campaign on FB? Can you please let your readers know...

Anonymous said...

Flats has been around for a long time. Perhaps you never read any Jack Kerouac, and you never heard of a "cold water flat"? More worrisome than the adoption of a British expression is its provenance as a term borrowed from boho hipsterism now just another condiment on the table of the real estate market.

Anonymous said...

Do you or do you not favor the real estate section as distinct and deserving of allocated funds? Because what seems to be bothering you surpasses consistent misuse and departure from guidelines, and one may infer a position taken that if actualized would do away with a few jokers here and there.

Anthony - the Indianapolis Real Estate guy said...

Funny post. I actually kind of like the British term 'flat'. Still, I get what you're saying--it does connote a certain pretense.

Anonymous said...

In Chicago you also refer to your city as a "city" instead of just a big dumb town.

Christopher Gray said...

The "Streetscapes" column has used the term <> dozens of times since its inception in 1987. Occasionally it has been in the context of a name, like "the Navarro Flats," sometimes it has been hedged by a referential explanation, but more often than not it has just been straight usage.

The term "flat" is an excellent way to distinguish a working class tenement from a multiple dwelling built for a slightly higher economic class.

It appears that, in The Mother Country, the term first indicated a dwelling unit on a single floor (hence, "flat") carved out of a multi-floor residence, like a converted mansion, and in the 1880s, when the apartment revolution swept England (in advance of the United States), made the jump.

In the United States, the term was at first customarily used as "French flat", indicating the general consensus that the middle- and upper-income multiple dwelling was of French origin.

In 1868 the Real Estate Record & Guide used the term in a tentative way: "There is also a system of building tenement houses in vogue in the city of Paris which is very highly spoken of. These houses are called ‘flats’, and it is stated that the most fastidious noblemen can dwell in them, surrounded by all the elegance that his taste and station may require."

And, an 1869 advertisement in the Brooklyn Eagle for Duffield Terrace said it had been built "in the manner of a French Flat," suggesting general familiarity with the term, albeit a slight hesitancy.

A very casual search of the commonly used digitized publications finds no earlier usage, although such is very, very likely. Although sometimes considered archaic, brief search of the Times for a single sample year - 1960 - finds multiple usage of the term without quotes, apology or explanation, in news articles, headlines and advertisements.

But the origins of the term - and its later social implications - would make an interesting study.

Christopher Gray

Anonymous said...

I like it because it is one syllable versus three for apartment.

I think it is OK for NYT to decide this is a better word and thereby contribute to its standardization in American English. Websters will pick it up if it catches on.

But your post is very entertaining. I enjoy your blog a lot. I'd talk to you if you were a crank caller. Too bad NYT won't.

Hattie said...

I always thought of a flat as being one floor of a multi-story house originally built for one family, whereas an apartment was rooms in a building called (guess what) an apartment building.

Anonymous said...

No that's really interesting what it meant 100 years ago to different neighbourhoods. it's debatable that the neighbouring concatenation can variously mark a ‘flat’ as a hole in a pension, a loft, a freaking cardboard shack & to pontinue grabbing a reader’s attn esp. one who may find apt too generic, a writer may opt for flat to attract the right target but still guys,
let’s not willingly (^+$] performative armature to
confer false hopes
about a space, dammit, unless you own the property.

Anonymous said...

you think that's pretentious? here's the times' position on "go missing":

"Go Missing: Many readers have expressed strong aversion to this expression, but I’m not really sure why. It seems to be a Britishism originally, but has become common. Yes, 'disappear' can also serve, but 'go missing' seems unobjectionable to me."

Anonymous said...

Here in the UK, newspapers and broadcasters make a point of not using any Americanisms. They're British publications and news segments. I'm surprised the New York Times wants to use Britishisms. It looks silly really.

Anonymous said...

The Times has been using "flat" for an eternity. Check the archives back to 1851. You'll see hundreds if not thousands of references. Here's just one, from 1981.

Anonymous said...

This whole debate leaves me flat. I'm retiring to my corner niche.

Anonymous said...

btw, re. "go missing": i think "is missing" or "has been missing" is more in line with american idiom. (and then of course there are always alternatives like "vanished" or "disappeared.")

FGFM said...

In Chicago you also refer to your city as a "city" instead of just a big dumb town.

Didn't Carl Sandburg say something like that? Go Rangers!

PS - another funny thing about the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago is that they call submarine sandwiches "poor boys." Not sure where they stand on the pop/soda thing.

Anonymous said...

"I'm surprised the New York Times wants to use Britishisms. It looks silly really."

guess the times is the madonna of newspapers.

oh, and the times doesn't understand why "go missing" is objectionable? maybe it should include "affectation" in its list of 50 words.

"Madonna...drew snickers...when she announced the winner of the Turner prize in a distinct British accent.... But her spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, wrote in an email, 'She does naturally pick up on languages and sounds of people around her... It's certainly not meant as an affect... When she's back in New York for a while, she gets right into the New Yawk sound.' "

Anonymous said...

Oh hell ! Flat is just a more satisfying word to say!
N'est pas? ( a western Canadian ... )