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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Suburbanites




If you think living in the suburbs is akin to something like hell on earth, you are right. Well, etymologically, at least. The suburbs are places beneath the city (from the Latin sub = under, and urb = city), not literally underground, but beneath, as in “not as good.”

The suburbium was an outlying part of the city, which in old French became suburbe, or a residential area outside a city. Now, whole municipalities are suburbs, without the city. We call then “bedroom communities,” because it is presumed that people only sleep there, and drive off on a highway to work somewhere else. But what of the families left behind? They are suburbanites, anonymous as their name.

In 17th century London, suburbs became associated with inferiority and bad behavior. By the 18th century, the word “suburban” took on the more complex connotation with narrow-mindedness.

Old Suburban

The Chevy Suburban has been around about as long as actual suburbs: it’s been in continuous production since 1935 (the longest-lived nameplate still in production). Just like its brick-and-mortar counterparts, the Suburban has undergone considerable changes in design over the years, though mostly downhill, aesthetically speaking. Where once it was an ergonomic expression of style, all business and curves, it is now mostly just business and square.

The suburbs are an artificial kind of living environment because they have no history and have not been rooted in the landscape by geology — merely by an excess population which gathers like plaque around vehicular arteries. A lack of neighborhoods means that suburbanites buy food from supermarkets. In 1970, perhaps they ate Suburbia Stew. It was the Golden Age of the Suburb, where Moms still had time to cook stew, bought vegetables, and had a bay leaf on hand to flavor the pot.

The Exurbs had yet to arrive.

Kraft’s Main Dish Cook Book, 1970

Also from this book: Women's Lib, Mariachi Supper

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