The department of redundancy department

« previous post | next post »

Years ago, I once saw a sign on a psycholinguist's door saying ‘DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT’, and I smiled at the joke. But today I happened to notice that the Jersey City corporate seal says ‘CITY OF JERSEY CITY’, and the city website is; I assume I am not meant to smile at that.

Maybe the principle to keep in mind is that (if one is to be polite) one should only smile at funny things when they are intended to be funny. But of course that presupposes one can tell.

Perhaps things that are intended to be funny should be labeled ("This is intendedly funny"). The trouble is, that might make them less funny.

Never mind. Just a thought at the end of a long, hard, working Sunday afternoon. Ignore me.


  1. Philip Potter said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

    Interestingly, I interpret the first as "(Department of Redundancy) Department" and the second as "City of (Jersey City)". I wonder why?

  2. David L said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

    It's better than JERSEY CITY CITY, I guess.

  3. John Cowan said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

    The faculty members belonging to the D.R.D. bear the title of "Professor of Redundancy Professor of the Department of Redundancy Department Professor".

    In New Jersey, municipalities may be Boroughs, Cities, Townships, Towns, or Villages, so "City of Jersey City" is not really redundant; it might have chosen to be the Town of Jersey City instead. Details here.

  4. Russell Borogove said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    King City in Central California has (used to have?) a great big sign at the city limit, saying "Welcome To City Of King". Not redundant, but always struck me funny.

  5. Eduardo said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

    I suppose that 'Jersey City' is a proper name. Since 'City of X' is perfectly fine, so must be 'City of Jersey City'.

  6. Ken Adams said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    Geoff: I live in Garden City, on Long Island. It's formally known as "the Village of Garden City," to reflect that it's an unincorporated village. (I confess I have no idea what the exact implications are of that.) So the "City" in its name is misleading—it ain't no city. Bearing that in mind, the "City of" tacked in front of Jersey City's name isn't quite as fatuous as it seems. Instead, it serves to confirm that, unlike Garden City, the name is consistent with its legal status. Ken

  7. Neal Goldfarb said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    The trope "Department of Redundancy Department" originates (unless someone antedates it) on the Firesign Theatre's 1970 album Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. It's from something that happens in High School Madness with Peorgie and Mudhead, which is the movie-within-the-television-broadcast-within-the-alternate-reality-that-is-the-album. (Firesign was always a big believer in, and practitioner of, recursion.)

    Peorgie and Mudhead have discovered (at the end of Side 1) that Morse Science High has disappeared. Near the beginning of Side 2, Principal Poop appears on the radio to calm the masses and gives the following statement (from which heckling [e.g., "What is reality?!"] and other interjections ["those bullies at Communist Martyrs High School, that's who"] have been omitted) :

    All of us want to know… just as much as I want to know who's responsible…and until we do I must make my dirty cl… duty clean… clear and announce the suspendering of the upcoming graduating exercises which can not… and will… which aren't taking place.

    But don't worry! Don't worry! Your food, housing, insecurity, will be guaranteed by the Department of Redundancy Department and the Natural Guard. And remember trust pressers will be persecuted.

    So please, stay where you are, don't move, and don't panic! Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way.

    Note that "trust pressers" is what appears in the transcript I got this from; I always understood it as "trussreepers." I await Mark's phonetic analysis.

  8. Geraint Jennings said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    No more redundant than e.g.

    Stadt Darmstadt (
    city of Nizhny Novgorod (
    City of Ville Platte (
    City of Saint Petersburg… etc

    or the triply redundant City of Hampton (

  9. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

    Ah, I thought "Department of Redundancy Department" was a Mad Magazine mainstay, but I don't own the archives and can't check.

    Near us is the City of Union City. I've always assumed there was some ridiculous state or federal bureaucratic reason why the full name of the city was rendered in this way (e.g., the area was already known as [Union City] before officially incorporating, at which point it had to follow the unyielding template of "The City of [X]," and "The City of Union" would have sounded wrong), but have never looked it up.

  10. Coby Lubliner said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    For some reason toponyms ending in city are written as two "words", both capitalized, while those ending in town are usuall written as one "word". This is purely an orthographic convention, and Jersey City is just as much of a semantic word, i.e. the name of a place (which happens, under New Jersey law, to be classified as a city), as Morristown, which happens to be a town. Does The Town of Morristown bother anyone? Or, for that matter, the City of Morristown, Minnesota?

  11. Jon Lennox said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

    As a resident of that fair borough-of-New-York-under-foreign-occupation, I find it very amusing that two consecutive, unrelated Language Log posts managed to mention Jersey City.

  12. Aoife said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

    University College Dublin has spent its entire life happily being called U.C.D. until a recent and expensive image overhaul. It's now U.C.D. Dublin.

  13. Ben Zimmer said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    As another proud resident of the redundant city, I'll point out, as I did recently here, that it was originally known as the City of Jersey, to balance out the City of New York across the river. The name was then officially changed to Jersey City, but "the City of…" was still required to indicate the type of municipality in a formal way. By contrast, New York City gets to call itself the City of New York instead of going the redundant route. More history here.

    (And then there's the City of Oklahoma City, the City of Atlantic City, the City of Sioux City, the City of Kansas City…)

  14. Sid Smith said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

    (This is going to sound lame because I don't have the details to hand, but…)

    Somewhere in Bill Bryson (probably 'Mother Tongue') there's the tale of a place in the UK which was named in their own lingo by successive waves of invaders, so that it's now called something like Hillhill Hill. Or Lakelake Lake, Fieldfield Field, etc.

  15. Freddy said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    "Ignore me."

    But if I ignore you, I'm doing what you ask, which means I'm not ignoring you…

    [Whoops! Paradox. Some days I just can't catch a break. —GKP]

  16. Ray Girvan said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    Torpenhow – although Torpenhow Hill appears to be anecdotal.

  17. SeanH said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    Wikipedia – obviously – has a List of tautological place names.

  18. Rhodent said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

    Virginia has two counties with "city" as part of their names: Charles City County and James City County. There is a Charles City in Charles City County, but it is an unincorporated municipality, and not an actual city. There is not and never has been a James City anywhere in Virginia, although Jamestown is in James City County. Incidentally, the county seat of James City County is Williamsburg, which is not actually in James City County.

  19. J said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

    Anyone ever wonder what the "DC" in "DC Comics" stands for? It stands for "Detective Comics". So yes, the company's full name is Detective Comics Comics …

  20. maidhc said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    There's the La Brea Tar Pits in southern California, which are The The Tar Tar Pits.

    Toronto has an Avenue Road, but there's kind of an explanation–it was originally a road that was an extension of University Avenue past the University.

    There's a Townsville in Queensland, but I think it was called after a person named Town or Towns.

    The Wikipedia article gives El Camino Way in Palo Alto, but El Camino Way is a small street leading off El Camino Real. There's a convention that such streets be given the name of the major street and then "Way".

    Many people say "The El Camino" of course.

    El Camino Real turns up in another unexpected place that I think very few people appreciate. Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem "In Back of the Real" ( I know exactly the place he is talking about in this poem, and it's just off El Camino Real. I'm sure the pun was intentional.

  21. Eveningsun said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

    Then there's the Rio Grande River….

  22. Jac said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

    I live near to a Mow Cop Hill; I believe this contains redundancy. It's topped by a folly in the shape of a ruined castle and so supports redundancy.

  23. prettylo said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

    Over here we have the SACE Board of SA. That is, the South Australian Certificate of Education Board of South Australia. (Just in case you thought it was the other one…)

  24. empty said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    I live in Watertown, Massachusetts. Apparently it is a city; I didn't know that until I looked it up just now on Wikipedia.

  25. Geraint Jennings said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

    A quick and unscientific duck and dive through the list of the 51 cities in England according to Wikipedia ( suggests that 21 are redundant (without double counting any like the City of Southampton which are triply redundant). And that's without counting York, of which the civic etymology is not so transparent.

    But city status in the UK is an honorific, not strictly related to the size, importance, or nature of the authority in question. Not all cities have the status of "city", nor would one describe all "cities" as necessarily cities.

  26. Steve Harris said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

    Every year I must report in my state (Missouri) income taxes the county I live in (why they can't just get that from my address is another question). I live in St. Louis–which is its own county (unlike any other county in Missouri), meaning we have to elect county officials as well as city officials here. Now, there is a St. Louis County–but that's not where I live: St. Louis County is a hodge-podge of 90 or so smaller cities and unincorporated areas (all part of the St. Louis metro area, of course–but not part of The City).

    So I live in the County of St. Louis City. So far as I know, that's the only place where "City" is appended to the name "St. Louis".

  27. KCinDC said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

    Reminds me of University of Maryland University College.

  28. Alan Wachtel said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

    When Los Altos Hills (itself a near-redundancy), California, was incorporated in 1956, its residents wanted it to be called the Town of Los Altos Hills, reflecting its rural character. At that time, however, the only type of municipal corporation recognized in California was the city. It therefore became officially known as the City of the Town of Los Altos Hills. This appellation can be seen, for instance, in the federal zoning lawsuit Ybarra v. The City of the Town of Los Altos Hills (1974) 503 F.2d 250 (

    California law has since changed, and so has the town name. Now, boringly, it's just the Town of Los Altos Hills.

  29. Z said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    My favorite weird NJ place name has to be South Orange – the formal name of it is actually "The Township of South Orange Village," or "South Orange Village Township."

  30. Paul said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

    Proud Jersey City resident, and avid LLog reader here!

    1a. Every municipality in New Jersey is one of five NJ-specific types:
    City, Borough/Boro, Town, Township, Village.

    1b. The name of the city I live in is Jersey City. Thus to specify type and name, one would write "City of Jersey City." Similarly: "City of Newark," "Borough of Princeton," "Township of Princeton," "City of Atlantic City."

    2. Even funnier is "New Jersey City University," formerly "New Jersey State Normal School at Jersey City ," "New Jersey State Teachers College at Jersey City," and "Jersey City State College."

  31. Don Monroe said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    As Ben mentioned obliquely, it's not really a redundancy: one "City" is part of the name, the other specifies the municipality "type" (although you can't tell which is which).

    New Jersey has five official "types" of municipality (Village, Township, Borough, Town, and City). This is a historical distinction with virtually no consequence. Each of the 566 municipalities in the state has both a name and a type. Some of the names are just names, as in the city called of Newark, or "City of Newark." Others include a word like "City" as part of the name, like the "City of Jersey City." But the name need not match the type, as in the "Township of South Orange Village."

    I don't think there's any way to tell from that name whether it is township whose name is "South Orange Village" or a village whose name is "Township of South Orange." It's the former, but everyone calls it "South Orange."

    This is just the beginning of the confusion. For example, New Jersey has five different entities called "Washington Township."

  32. Garrett Wollman said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

    Watertown, Massachusetts, is formally styled "the city called the Town of Watertown" in legislation. Arguably there should be some internal quotation marks there. There are several other examples where a town adopted a "city form of government" but maintained its old name. (The town of some 70,000 where I live would in any sane political system be chartered as a city, but for some inexplicable reason my neighbors keep on voting it down.) But one of the Pioneer Valley towns — Easthampton maybe? — rechartered as a city and was perfectly happy to become "City of ____".

    Also in Massachusetts, all of Nantucket Island is part of the Town and County of Nantucket; since the powers of towns and counties are different (counties barely even exist) it may on occasion be necessary for the Nantucket Board of Selectmen to reconvene as the Nantucket County Commission.

  33. Mr Punch said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

    Near the La Brea Tar Pits, I once saw a cafe advertising "Viennese coffee with mit schlag."

  34. Mona said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 9:38 pm

    Living in Montreal, this kind of redundancy is everywhere in an effort to integrate French and English on signage. The worst I've seen is the Pavillion Hall Building (Pavillion Hall or Hall Building, really), which I suppose is named after someone named Hall but just makes me think of three words for 'building' one after the other.

    The same sort of naming convention is apparent in Brussels (rue Dinantstraat, etc.) and I imagine anywhere two or more official languages are conducive to it.

  35. John said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

    I like my steak with au jus.

  36. Vance Maverick said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

    Or in St. Louis, there's University City, whose chief administrative building is the City of University City City Hall.

  37. bloix said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

    This is standard municipal government nomenclature, particularly but not only where the city incorporates a state name. The "city of" phrasing indicates that the reference is to the legal municipal corporation. The second city is part of the name. "The CIty of Oklahoma CIty" is correct; "The CIty of Oklahoma" would be incorrect, because Oklahoma is a state, not a city.

    See, eg:
    The City of Kansas City,
    The City of Oklahoma City,
    The City of Oregon City,
    The City of Redwood City,
    The City of Texas City,
    The City of Panama City,

    An exception is New York CIty, which is "The City of New York": (note the copyright legend at the bottom).

    Why? Because New York the city has rights to the name that are at least equal to and perhaps greater than New York the state. Unlike Oklahoma, New York is the name of both a city and a state.

  38. bloix said,

    September 26, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

    This is standard municipal government usage, as you'll see if you search for, e.g.:
    The City of Florida City
    The City of Iowa City
    The City of Kansas City
    The CIty of Oklahoma City
    The CIty of Texas CIty

    And not only for state-name cities:
    The City of Panama City
    The City of Redwood City
    The City of Culver City
    The City of Bossier City

    The major exception is New York City, whose official name is not New York City, but simply New York. Hence the municipality is the City of New York.

  39. David Fried said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:16 am

    Martha's Vineyard forms the County of Dukes County, MA:

    from Wikipedia:

    Dukes County was thus established as Dukes County, New York, on November 1, 1683, and included all of Mayhew's lands – Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Elizabeth Islands. The county was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691, and at the same time Nantucket Island was split into the separate Nantucket County, Massachusetts. The 1695 incorporation statute created a county "by the name of Dukes County," as opposed to the standard form "the county of Dukes" which is the reason for the redundancy in the formal name, "County of Dukes County".[2]

  40. Matt McIrvin said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:17 am

    I was somewhat confused about local government after I moved from Virginia, where incorporated cities are disjoint from the counties that surround them, leading to the common situation in which the county seat is not actually in the county; to Massachusetts, where cities and towns cover the entire area of the state, and counties are a different set of divisions of little note except to the court system.

    In Massachusetts, there's a formal distinction between cities and towns that has to do with their form of government. But, as stated above, there are exceptions when it comes to names, which lead to some contorted nomenclature.

  41. Dan S said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:50 am

    The legislative body of the County of Dukes County is the County of Dukes County County Commission.

    (I was pleased to find a gentleman named in a court document as the "County County County of Santa Barbara", but it's just a typo. He's actually the "Count Counsel, County of Santa Barbara.")

  42. David J Swift said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:53 am

    Thanks to Neal Goldfarb above for properly crediting the origins of The Department of Redundancy Dept. The joke has enjoyed a wide and long life; salut!

    As for the garbled words (which are unrelated to the original post but this is fanboy pedantry here), I recall the scene as Principal Pooper addressing the entire school in the gym. He becomes rattled by hecklers and, obviously reading from a prepared statement, stumbles over some words. I heard "tress-reppers will be persecuted" is if he had garbled "trespassers" et al.

    That said, I'm impressed with how well Don't Crush That Dwarf has held up. Even when listened to straight. The story folds in on itself quite magically, 40 years before it became de rigueur for 37% of all Hollywood products to attempt a similar stunt.

  43. C Thornett said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 1:33 am

    Bredon Hill is another hill hill hill, and of course the various River Avons are all river river.

  44. ShadowFox said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 2:40 am

    This thread has generated a lot of responses. But I'll venture to add one anyhow. Suppose there is a small municipality of Newtown, that happens to be a town, under local nomenclature and, therefore, has a town hall. Then the facility would be called

    The Town of Newtown Town Hall.

    In Massachusetts, there is a town of Newton, which is an incorporation of seven villages (hence the town). Cambridge, which, I believe, is a city, used to be called Newtowne before it became Cambridge (and it was not a city at that point either). But, unfortunately, there is not town or city of Newtown in the state today… No worse, I suppose, than "KFC chicken franchise".

  45. Geoffrey K. Pullum said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 2:41 am

    Whoa! So many redundant examples of redundant linguistic redundancy! I'm totally completely impressed. And to think, just imagine, some people think there is a natural information-theoretic pressure biasing languages against it.

  46. Lugubert said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 6:05 am

    On, I reported the 3x River, Yarlung Zangbo Jiang River (Yarlung was a Tibetan dynasty).

  47. Colin John said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    I think I may have written this before, but here goes anyway.
    The most quoted multiply redundant place name in the UK is 'Torpenhow Hill' (Hillhillhill Hill). Unfortunately although there is a place called Torpenhow which has a hill above it, that hill is not named on maps. My own favourite is a valley in Yorkshire called 'Luddenden Dene' (Loud valley valley valley) which is remarkable because the same element occurs 3 times – one assumes it has come from Ludd Dene via Ludden Dene.

  48. Cameron said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 9:42 am

    With regard to South Orange being the weirdest place name in NJ. I will admit that the full name of that locality is a bit strange, but there is a place in NJ that rejoices in the name Cheesequake. Mind you, there's no actual town of Cheesequake, but there is a Cheesequake State Park, and a Cheesequake Rest Area on the Garden State Parkway. There's no topping Cheesequake for weirdness.

  49. Rodger C said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    Is the waterfall in Yorkshire named Catterick Force (Waterfall Waterfall) ever called Catterick Force Falls? Pass the nachos with con queso cheese, and call out the Natural Guard.

  50. Robert Coren said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 11:58 am

    ben Zimmer writes:

    By contrast, New York City gets to call itself the City of New York instead of going the redundant route

    My understanding is that the name of the city is, in fact, New York. It is commonly referred to as "New York City" to make it clear that the speaker or writer is referring to the city named New York, not the state of the same name.

  51. Joyce Melton said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

    Near me in California are two municipal entities named City of Commerce and City of Industry, sometimes referred to as Commerce and Industry, especially by residents but seldom on signage. So in a context where one would refer to the city of Los Angeles, one could logically refer to the cities of City of Industry and City of Commerce.

    The name is not the named, and the name of the name is not the name of the named.

  52. Bloix said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    South Orange Village became a township for a classic bureaucratic reason:

    In 1981, the name was changed to "South Orange Village Township" to take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies. The change was intended to allow South Orange to qualify for a pool of federal aid allocated to municipalities that allowed townships to receive as much as double the revenue-sharing aid per capita received by the four other types of New Jersey municipalities — borough, city, town or village.,_New_Jersey

  53. Dan T. said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

    "New York" is in fact simultaneously the name of a city, a state, and a county (comprising the borough of Manhattan).

  54. Levi Montgomery said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    Not to wrench this thread too far from the place names theme, but "This is intendly funny" reminded me of the line (mostly found in government publications) that reads "This page intentionally left blank."

    Um… no it wasn't.

  55. arthur said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    The Outerbridge Crossing between Staten Island and Perht Amboy, New Jersey, not far from the City of Jersey City, is a false redundancy. It is the outermost of the six crossings (and four bridge crossings) between New York City and New Jersey. However its name honors Euigenius Outerbridge and does not refer to its bridge/crossing status.

  56. J. W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    For redundancy-by-synonym, try "Welcome to the Commonwealth of Virginia State Employee Directory." I assume the four U.S. states that style themselves as commonwealths are probably a treasure trove of further such examples, but that was the first one I pulled up.

  57. David Margolies said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

    I see Joyce Melton has already mentioned City of Commerce, CA. I think there is a sign directing you to the Chamber of Commerce of Commerce.

  58. Dan T. said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

    A more stringent pet peeve of mine is triggered not by the redundancy of "City of Jersey City", but by the fact that their official website is in a .com domain, implying a commercial entity, instead of a more proper .gov or .us address.

  59. Alan Wachtel said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    But Jefferson City, Missouri, is simply the City of Jefferson.

    The name of Mount Kilimanjaro may be at least partially redundant. When I learned Swahili in the Peace Corps, many decades ago, I was taught that kilima is an ironic diminutive of Swahili mlima, mountain, and that njaro also means mountain in a local language (I think Maasai). The first derivation seems to be generally accepted, but the meaning of njaro is disputed (and I haven't found any source that claims it means mountain).

  60. John Cowan said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    Mr. Punch: When the coffee doesn't have whipped cream, it is coffee mit ohne 'with without'.

    Dan T.: "New York" is also a postal address, in which context it covers not only Manhattan but also the Bronx. "Queens", however, is not a postal address: one must specify Far Rockaway, Floral Park, Flushing, Jamaica, or Long Island City in order to make street addresses unambiguous. However, it's common for residents to give their addresses with one of the dozens of informal neighborhoods into which the borough is divided. Zipcodes generally save the day here.

  61. Bloix said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    To a lawyer (i.e. me) the City of Jersy City is not redundant. Jersey City is a place, i.e. a geographically defined space. The City of Jersey City is a municipal corporation, i.e. a fictional person created under the laws of the State of New Jersey and located nowhere in particular, with a structure and powers defined by particular statutes. For example, the City of Jersey City can own property that is not within the limits of Jersey City, but most of the property in Jersey City is not the property of the City of Jersey City.

    You can argue that the distinction doesn't need to be made explicit because it's obvious, and maybe so, but it's not a redundancy.

  62. Bloix said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

    Oops. E.g. me. I don't claim to be the only lawyer in America.

  63. M. Radhakrishnan said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

    Hmm… at least in my experience in Texas (Houston, Austin, El Paso), we don't refer to it as the Rio Grande River — just as the Rio Grande.

    But I did have a friend from out of state very amused by the Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. Never having thought of "Memorial City" or the "Memorial Hermann" hospital system in terms of their component parts, but always as a location and an organization, it took me a fair bit before I realized why she was laughing.

  64. oxlahun said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

    I used to live in Montague, Massachusetts, which is a town (by form of government) that consists of five villages: Lake Pleasant, Millers Falls, Montague Center, Montague City, and Turners Falls. If I remember correctly, it has three US Post Offices, which is a little unusual for a single town with fewer than 10000 residents.

    One of the roads into town has a sign welcoming drivers to the Village of Montague City Town of Montague.

  65. Elizabeth said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

    How about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? The "the" is there on their website.

  66. Isabel said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

    Unfortunately, the "Town of Newtown Town Hall" actually couldn't have existed even if Newton, MA had remained "Newtown," as Newton is actually a city, despite it's very suburban atmosphere and its 13 village components. It would, however, be the still-odd "City of Newtown City Hall," or better yet, the "City of New Town City Hall." If only they had added that space…

  67. Rubrick said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

    This is intended to be funny.

  68. nbm said,

    September 28, 2010 @ 5:25 am

    John Cowan, actually, it's standard for postal addresses in the Bronx to appear as "Bronx, New York" (sans article). Which could be either the borough or the county; while addresses in Brooklyn and Staten Island use the borough name, those in Manhattan the county name, and those in Queens, as you note, the neighborhood post office name. It's nutty. (The apparent redundancy here would be the existence of coterminous boroughs and counties.)

  69. Bloix said,

    September 28, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    The reasons are historical and social. New York and Brooklyn were separate cities before 1896, and of course each had a single main post office. Manhattan was the City of New York, and so the postal name New York has persisted. Brooklyn was the City of Brooklyn and that name has persisted as well.

    Queens was never a unified city – it was a county with some good-sized towns and a lot of villages in 1896, and local identity and loyalty has always been to the former town or neighborhood, not the borough. Queens residents have successfully resisted efforts to take away their neighborhood postal names.

    For Bronx and Staten Island, the post office was able to overcome local resistance and impose single names. You may still find people who write "Brooklyn Heights" or "Tottenville," but those names aren't officially recognized.

    The post office assigned "Bronx," not "the Bronx," to the Bronx – strictly speaking that's closer to the county name (Bronx County) not the borough name (The Bronx), but the post office doesn't care – it's just using something convenient. Using "Bronx" avoids the question of how you alphabetize "The Bronx."

    Staten Island is for postal purposes "Staten Island," which is both the borough name and the name of the island. The county is "Richmond," but the post office presumably decided that "Richmond" would be hopelessly confusing.

  70. Bloix said,

    September 28, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

    Oops – an editing error. Obviously Brooklyn Heights isn't in the Bronx. It's true that there used to be people who put Brooklyn Heights on their mail. But what I meant to say is that in the case of the Bronx there may still be people who put Riverdale on their letters, but that's an affectation – it's to show that they live in the nice part of the Bronx, even though it's not an official postal name.

  71. sburnap said,

    September 28, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

    That reminds me of this amusing bit from Steven Brust's The Phoenix Guards

  72. Anthony said,

    September 29, 2010 @ 2:27 am

    Alan Wachtel – I believe the change in the law was merely allowing the usage "the Town of Los Altos Hills" to be the formal name of the city; California still has only one and a half types of recognized municipality. The half being the "City and County of San Francisco", which is indeed the formal legal name of San Francisco.

  73. Craig said,

    September 29, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

    I don't know what it is, but this post just has a certain je ne sais quoi.

    @J: classic RAS syndrome

  74. bloix said,

    September 30, 2010 @ 12:25 am

    The City and County of San Francisco is a unified governmental entity that has the functions of both city and county. Compare this to the City of Los Angeles, which is one of 88 cities in Los Angeles County.

  75. Alan Wachtel said,

    September 30, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    Anthony: Right. The California Government Code now permits the corporate name of a city to be either "city" or "town." Different names, same type of municipal corporation.

  76. John Cowan said,

    September 30, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

    The State of New York is fully partitioned into counties, each of which (outside NYC) is fully partitioned into one or more cities, towns, and Indian reservations. All these are legal entities. Villages are also legal entities, and may overlap towns, but not cities. They are usually created when a given area has common schools or sewers or something of the sort even though the area is in more than one town. Finally, hamlets are not legal entities, and are simply the customary names of small places without definite boundaries. All this is pretty much true of the New England states as well, although counties barely exist there.

    The five counties of NYC constitute a single city, and in this context are known as boroughs, but they have no county government outside a Borough President.

  77. Craig said,

    September 30, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

    @John Cowan: counties exist here in Massachusetts, but I don't know exactly what they do except that there are county courts, you register deeds with the county, and I believe the sheriff departments are under county jurisdiction. As far as I know, there is no unincorporated land in the state. And I did hear a few years ago that Berkshire county voted itself out of existence, which struck me as very bizarre.

  78. Qhapaqinka said,

    October 4, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    Surprised no one has mentioned Carthage, which is 'New Town' in Punic/Phoenician [qart Hadasht]; Cartagena, Spain, is from Latin Carthago Nova, so 'New New Town'. It's a shame Cartagena, Colombia isn't referred to as Nueva Cartagena – if it were, we could eventually establish a Lunar or Martian colony called New Nueva Cartagena.

RSS feed for comments on this post