Tag Archives: real estate ads

Calling All Creatives

Words slide from one part of speech to another all the time. How else could I meet some Yankees (noun) or watch Yankees baseball (adjective)? Nor is it rare for words to pick up new and fanciful definitions, though I confess that the first time I see the unexpected, I tend to assume the writer is wrong. Alas, pride does indeed go before a fall, because often I am wrong and what I thought was an error turns out to be a creative expression or a specialized usage.

Are these sign-writers visionary, knowledgeable, or grammatically inept? I’ll let you decide.

Man shirt?









The usual expression is “men’s shirt” or, in an apostrophe-stricken way, “mens shirt.” “Men’s” with the apostrophe is a possessive noun. Without the apostrophe it’s a mistake.  “Man shirt” turns “man” into an adjective. The dictionary allows for “man” as a noun (the man at the counter), a verb (to man the barricades) or an interjection (Man! That was awesome!) True, I don’t flinch at “man cave” (not at the wording, anyway). Perhaps the sign-writer didn’t want the correct but trite “men’s shirt.” But how to change it? “Male shirt” endows the clothing itself with gender.  “Shirts belonging to men” is too long and often inaccurate, as lots of people who aren’t men like the button-down look. “Masculine shirt”? That seems to rely on outdated stereotypes. Maybe “man shirt” isn’t so bad after all.

Moving on:

In my ignorance I was ready to impose an “unauthorized part of speech” penalty — until I looked up “creative” in the dictionary, which enlightened me to the fact that “creative” can be a noun applied to people who, well, create for a living: writers, artists, composers, and so forth. Apparently I’ve been a “creative” for decades and never knew it.

Last one:









“Availability” as a noun is pretty common, but usually in the abstract sense: “Her immediate availability makes her the ideal candidate for Fire Warden, because two million acres are aflame and another million at risk.” But every dictionary definition of “availability” begins with “the quality of” or “the state of,” not “the place where.” On the sign, “availabilities” is a stand-in for “property you can rent if you have enough money.” (A little research into real estate prices showed me that “availabilities” are more expensive than “space for rent.”) Before I leave this sign, I have to address the meaning of “RSF.” I found a site listing 53 meanings for this acronym. I scrolled past “Royal Scots Fusiliers,” “Resource Selection Function,” “Rivista di Studi Fenici” (Journal of Phoenician Studies) until I arrived at “Rental Square Feet,” which seemed more apt than Scots, ecologists, and Phoenicians.

This whole post, by the way, arose from a New York Times article that quoted the phrase “negative effectives” from a judge’s decision.  Given that an “effective” is a “soldier ready for battle” and the ruling was about the military, the phrase might have made sense. Sort of. Then I checked other papers, all of which referred to “negative effects.” Sometimes a “new usage” isn’t creative or specialized. It’s just a typo.

Moral of the story (and note to self): Check before you scoff.

New in New York

A recent discussion on New York City’s public radio station repeatedly referred to “a new initiative” to reduce the number of traffic accidents. As someone who walks around the city every day, dodging bicycles (illegally) on the sidewalk and aggressive drivers in pedestrian crosswalks, I should have been listening carefully. Yet my mind drifted, caught by the phrase “new initiative.” I wondered whether there was such a thing as an “old initiative.”

My dictionary lists four definitions for “initiative,” the most appropriate in this context being “an act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach.” That last bit fits poorly with the adjective “new,” because then you’re talking about a “new fresh approach.” It’s worth noting, though, that the dictionary’s sample sentence refers to a “new initiative.” Why?

I was still trying to figure out the answer to this question when my husband snapped a photo of this sign:

New tradition?

So much better than an old tradition.









Traditionally, a “tradition” is a custom passed along from generation to generation. How do you know you’re creating a “new holiday tradition”?  By employing a soothsayer? If so, how much does that career pay? For some reason, it’s not listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. I can’t imagine why. After all, this is a city in which the marketing campaign for a building under construction referred to the structure as “prewar.” (For non-NYers, let me explain that “pre-war” in a real estate ad generally means “built before World War II.”) Given the state of the world, it’s likely that everything, everywhere, at any point in time is pre- some sort of war, but still, you have to wonder what the builders foresaw.

Mulling all this, I finally came up with a theory. The desire to distance oneself from the past with a “new initiative” or to control the future by establishing a “new tradition” is hardwired into New Yorkers’ psyches. Notwithstanding  the fact that the city sports a record-breaking concentration of psychotherapists plumbing our personal pasts, the city that never sleeps never stops changing, too. New Yorkers reinvent themselves and their city. It’s our tradition. Maybe we should slow down and savor what we already have. A change like that, though, requires initiative. New or not.

(Truly Real) Real Estate

When the apartment building on my corner was nearing completion, I checked the ads selling its apartments. I wasn’t buying; I was simply nosy. The website touted the idea that the property was “steps from Central Park.” True, if you take a lot of steps. Like, a LOT of steps – a brisk ten minutes’ worth, not counting time spent waiting at red lights. With that definition, every location is steps from Central Park – Nebraska, for example. You just have to keep walking.

That advertisement underscores the need for vigilance in approaching the New York City housing market. Only with constant attention will you know the exact moment when hipsters move in where hip-replacements once dominated. The language of this market is odd. The New York Times once wrote about the true meaning of some common real estate terms. I don’t remember all of them (and I may have added a few myself), but here is a selection:

  • Cozy means the kitchen is the size  of a bathmat.
  •  Private or secluded refers to an apartment whose windows face a brick wall.
  • townhouse feel guarantees that passersby can watch you sip your morning coffee through sidewalk-level windows.
  • If you have skyline views, you probably have to take a train to work.
  • A charming apartment has an intact, never renovated (or cleaned) 1950s bathroom, which matches the style and condition of other rooms.

And speaking of rooms, do apartments in other cities have half rooms, as in two-and-a-half-room apartment? I never have decoded that one. Does a half room lack a wall? A ceiling? Or just space? If the last definition applies, is there an official standard for half and whole? Most NYC rooms would be third or quarter rooms anywhere else.

And then there are other claims:

No machines?

No machines?

It took three trips to this construction site to get a photo not blocked by cranes and other heavy machinery, which presumably were not working on these apartments because then the sign would (gasp) be a lie.

I have more to say about what real in NYC real estate, but I’ll save it for another post. My home isn’t handcrafted, but my cleaning is. See you after the vacuuming is done.

And if you have any real real estate stories, feel free to send them in.