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Rue Little Britain

New York's Daily Intelligencer caused an avalanche of mail (well, at least one letter) featuring the polite menace of English residents on Greenwich Avenue, who, in an effort to protect small enterprise from the creeping enroachments of corporate America, have … Read More

By / July 16, 2007

New York's Daily Intelligencer caused an avalanche of mail (well, at least one letter) featuring the polite menace of English residents on Greenwich Avenue, who, in an effort to protect small enterprise from the creeping enroachments of corporate America, have lobbied to rename the block "Little Britain." After having this novel special relationship solidifier mocked by DI, one roast-beef-and-warm-beer shopowner wrote in that such a honorary retitle is no different than Koreatown or Little India or what have you, to which came this reply:

Is Koreatown an official designation for which local businesses lobbied the city? Or is it merely a descriptive term for an area that has a lot of Korean businesses? We suspect the latter. (Anyone know officially, for any of those neighborhoods?) But here's the point: Even if Koreatown is an official designation, it's also clearly a descriptive term. Has anyone ever colloquially thought of that slice of the West Village as "Little Britain"?

No, but not even Martin Scorsese still thinks of Mulberry Street as Little Italy, unless bubble tea is the late-discovered delicacy of the mezzogiorno.

The real cringe-making travesty of "Little Britain" is that this is also the name of a painfully unfunny BBC sitcom which trafficks in the kind of catchphrase yuks well-parodied by Ricky ("Are you havin' a laugh?") Gervais on Extras. "Little England" is a much apter designation for square inch conquest of our Atlantic cousins, what with its connotations of the loss of empire and the dimnished grandeur of the scepter'd isle.

Then again, I happen to think it's a sign of progress that old metropole has gone from Lord Palmerston at the Travellers to Nick Denton at Balthazar. (Only trouble there is, that's in SoHo, not the West Village.)

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