at least 10% Discocunt (biascut) wrote in linguaphiles,

small town / village

I was just listening to the news this morning and there was some story about American which referred to a settlement with a population of 3000 people as a small town. In Britain, we'd probably call that a village. But I've noticed before that places that would be described as villages in the UK are small towns in the US.

Is any settlement small enough to count as a village in the US, or is it not used at all? What connotations does "village" have in US English? What about Canada?
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iddewes

June 5 2014, 10:28:34 UTC 5 months ago Edited:  June 5 2014, 10:33:22 UTC

I mostly remember 'small town' being said in Canada, but I didn't really think about it when I was there. However, I just looked up a place I know is really small - Andrew, Alberta - and in Wikipedia that is listed as a village - it's population 379. Bonnyville, population 6,216 is listed as a town, so maybe it's just that they think of smaller settlements as villages than in the UK? That could be also because Canada is more sparsely populated.

beesandbrews

June 5 2014, 10:35:54 UTC 5 months ago

Village always has a rural connotation in my head, but I've lived in rural America for the better part of my adult life, and I've yet to notice one. (Maybe the term is used in the NE. They have townships there, they might have villages too.)

iddewes

June 5 2014, 10:42:33 UTC 5 months ago

Ok, I was curious so I looked it up for Canada. Apparently it varies from province to province, but in the province of Alberta over 10,000 people is a city, over 1,000 a town and over 300 a village.

houseboatonstyx

June 5 2014, 11:18:28 UTC 5 months ago

I don't think 'village' is used officially in the US west coast, nor remember it in Texas or the Southwest. There is an official term 'unincorporated area', which includes what most of us actually call a 'town', having a local Post Office, library, school, sheriff's office, and fire department, but no local government; the only official authority is a Parks and Recreation District.

dabroots

June 5 2014, 11:55:10 UTC 5 months ago Edited:  June 5 2014, 12:00:05 UTC

"Village" is used in some states in the U.S., and municipal designations vary from state to state, just like they vary from province to province in Canada, as mentioned by iddewes
Some have small communities designated as villages, while others do not, and the population required to have that designation also varies. There is a Wikipedia article about states that have villages at Village (United States).

teaoli

5 months ago

alessandriana

June 5 2014, 11:58:59 UTC 5 months ago

I wouldn't use the term village at all I don't think. Some apartment complexes use the term in their names to make them sound fancier, but that's about the only time I've heard it used. (US, time spent in California/Texas/Ohio.)

muckefuck

June 5 2014, 12:29:52 UTC 5 months ago

"Village" sounds very quaint to me. As others have pointed out, it shows up in proper names and official designations. (Skokie, a suburb on the northern border of Chicago with a population of nearly 65,000, used to tout itself as "the World's Largest Village".) But I would no sooner ask someone, "What's it like in your village?" than I would ask them how they treat their serfs.

If I need to refer to a very small inhabited settlement, I'll call it a "tiny town", a "podunk", or maybe a "wide spot in the road".

lied_ohne_worte

June 5 2014, 12:41:08 UTC 5 months ago

I guess this whole distinction between US and UK (and if you translate "village", much of the rest of Europe) has historical reasons due to the different development of settlements in the US? European villages have after all usually been villages for centuries, in many cases since the Middle Ages. In Germany at least there are very clear distinctions on what is a town and what isn't. These distinctions go back to the medieval rules on whether a place had town rights, which made a huge difference on how it was governed and what rights the inhabitants had.

There might be towns that are smaller than very large villages, but the two are still not interchangeable, as something is only a town if it has in fact "Stadtstatus", that is "town status". I'd never call something that isn't a town a "small town", it would feel as wrong as calling something a village would feel to you.

iddewes

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

iddewes

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

dieastra

5 months ago

iddewes

5 months ago

dieastra

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

lied_ohne_worte

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

muckefuck

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

teaoli

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

muckefuck

5 months ago

rirakkumiru

5 months ago

lorrainec

June 5 2014, 12:32:50 UTC 5 months ago

On Long Island (New York) we have villages - it's a specific administrative designation, and not at all rural! Note that places that are colloquially called villages here do not necessarily correspond to the incorporated villages. For example, I live in the Town of X which includes incorporated villages and unincorporated "hamlets" (I haven't encountered anyone who actually uses the term hamlet). X Bay is a village within the Town of X, but people just call it X Bay. Downtown X (technically part of X "Hamlet") is often colloquially referred to as "X Village."

None of these places are what I would think of as small towns - they're all run together. To me a small town has to be separated from other towns or cities by some kind of mostly uninhabited land or open space (farmland, forest, stuff like that). Prior to moving to Long Island (from the midwest) I would have thought the same about villages, except that I might expect a village to be smaller than a small town.

cafecomics

June 6 2014, 11:43:21 UTC 5 months ago

My brother lives in a hamlet that is part of a village, which is also a "commune". But that's in France (and in a rural part of the "département"), not in the US. :)

5x6

June 5 2014, 12:33:19 UTC 5 months ago

I only hear village in urban toponyms like Greenwich Village.

mamculuna

June 5 2014, 13:10:25 UTC 5 months ago

In the southeastern US where I live, the term "village" is not used. Something smaller than a small town is called a "community" (or a "wide spot in the road"!)

nicoleonfire

June 5 2014, 14:07:03 UTC 5 months ago

I live in Connecticut, which is in the northeastern section of the US. At least around here, no, we do not have villages. Anything we do have called a village is probably an apartment complex or some kind of tourist attraction. I personally tend to think of villages as the types of communities that would have existed in the olden days and not modern towns..

ikujinashii

June 5 2014, 14:43:05 UTC 5 months ago

As an American (a city-dwelling American, to be precise), I can't even recall ever hearing the term "village" used in everyday conversation. Like users above, I've only heard or read it in reference to places in Europe or in history books (aside from the Greenwich Village example). Where I live, a "village" is considered to be something that existed in "olden days," and does not exist any longer. Here, I'd say the term implies a lack of technological advancement and stirs up images of dirt roads and tiny wooden houses. I'd imagine that if I encountered someone who told me they lived in a village, my initial thought would be that they were visiting from Amish country or somewhere similar.

'Small town' would be the term used most-often, I think.

frenchroast

June 5 2014, 14:56:58 UTC 5 months ago

Seconding everyone who says "village" isn't used, with a few exceptions for places like "Greenwich Village" or use in a name to give a connotation of quaintness (Auburn, Alabama is a town that calls itself "The loveliest village on the plains" but no one would ever actually call it a village outside of invoking that phrase). It has an old-worldy/historic connotation to it, like the above comment about serfs. "Community" or "unincorporated town" is probably a better term for a super small "settlement" (and I feel I should mention that "settlement" is another word I'd never use to describe it, simply because every time I've heard it used, it's been historical, referring to a place people have just started to inhabit, like in colonial or pioneer-times). "A wide spot in the road" is slang--which you probably already guessed, but no one specified. Oh! Another good slang term would be a "speed trap" --b/c teeeeny tiny communities almost always have crazy low speed limits(compared to the regular speed limit on the road) on the roads that pass through them, and their police will often spend their days ticketing people for driving even just a couple of miles over.

And at least here in the South, town and city can be interchangeable--the town I live in calls itself a city in all its official language, but it's small, and plenty of people call it a town when talking about it. My sister-in-law is mayor of a town (that calls itself a town) with the same population as my "city". I don't think there's a hard and fast rule, honestly, other than what the town/city chooses to call itself. And towns don't have to be separated by fields/forest/land to be their own entities, because suburban/metro sprawl has eaten up a lot of the fields/forests/lands that might have once divided them, especially towns located near large cities like D.C. or Atlanta. It's impossible to tell where Decatur, Georgia or Marietta, Atlanta ends and the city of Atlanta begins, and really, most people think of Decatur or Marietta as part of Atlanta.

biascut

June 5 2014, 15:00:18 UTC 5 months ago

ahh, that's interesting! If city/town isn't a formal administrative distinction in the US, then that would also kind of suggest that the model is more like the German one than the English one even if the words are English.

xfdryad

5 months ago

frenchroast

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

beesandbrews

5 months ago

frenchroast

5 months ago

beesandbrews

5 months ago

frenchroast

5 months ago

beesandbrews

5 months ago

muckefuck

5 months ago

xfdryad

June 5 2014, 15:12:21 UTC 5 months ago

My home state is the only state in New England that has incorporated villages.

Having said that, the locals definitely refer to some places as villages, and other as towns. The size of the place doesn't seem to matter, nor does what services are provided. For example, despite having less than 900 people, my town is always referred to as a 'town', whereas nearby are two villages with a combined population of 4000 which are incorporated into the town of X, which has 5000 people.

Yeah, I don't get it either. Also, I learned something new about those two villages. ;)

kindmemory

June 5 2014, 16:09:01 UTC 5 months ago

"Village", to me, is old-fashioned, and it is used in fairy tales and in countries that have places that have small towns that don't seem to have much in the way of modern amenities. Also it sounds sort of historical, where in Europe you might have a village that has a low population and has been updated with electricity etc., but it is old enough to have qualified as a "village" at one time. I am from the Midwest and that is what I feel when I hear the world village.

archaicos

June 5 2014, 16:53:34 UTC 5 months ago

I wonder if village isn't in use because somehow it's associated with villains. :)
To me a town that's just a square mile and that's got one contracted cop, is more like a village. :)

sollersuk

June 5 2014, 18:13:17 UTC 5 months ago

They do come from the same root; "villain" comes from "villanus", someone who lived in a village-type community; and as everybody at the time knew, country dwellers were inferior beings and therefore bad.

archaicos

5 months ago

embryomystic

5 months ago

archaicos

5 months ago

embryomystic

5 months ago

biascut

5 months ago

archaicos

5 months ago

embryomystic

5 months ago

ticktockman

June 5 2014, 17:56:56 UTC 5 months ago

I'm in the state of Michigan, USA. I drive through the Village of Martin frequently. I also drive through Martin Township on the way in and out. I live in the City of Wayland. I drive through Wayland Township on the way in and out. I used to live in Cooper Charter Township. I'm near Kalamazoo, which used to be known as the Largest Village in the US until it changed its form of government to a city. All these descriptors (Village, Township, Chartered Township, and City) identify the type of local governance. A Chartered Township has been incorporated under the terms of a specific Charter authorized by the state legislature. Some villages can be quite large in population, and some cities fairly small. Townships tend to cover a lot of land geographically, but with fairly low populations because they are rural with lots of farmland and low population density.

There's also a trailer park manufactured home community in the City of Wayland that has "village" as part of its name. It isn't a village in terms of government, but the name is meant to suggest a comfy self-contained community. 300 families live there.

wig

June 5 2014, 21:32:29 UTC 5 months ago

Growing up in the USA I think I only ever heard the term "village" used in reference to small settlements in "developing countries".

tristissima

June 5 2014, 23:41:33 UTC 5 months ago

I live in Oakland, CA, and "Village" is usually self-applied by small, bourgeois enclaves which kind of want to disassociate from Oaklnd (they're usually in the hills and have a lot more white people, for example). Montclair Village is an example. They seem to try to pretend that they are an independent settlement of some sort, when really they're just a neighborhood of Oakland.

rhiannon_black

June 6 2014, 00:48:56 UTC 5 months ago

I lived in Ridgewood, NJ, (approx. 25,000 at the last census) which styles itself officially as the Village of Ridgewood. It has something to do with how the government is set up. I was a kid when I lived there (left at sixteen), but don't remember anyone actually referring to it as a village. I don't remember anyone ever anywhere referring to a town of any size as a village, except perhaps in an historical context, e.g., an Indian village.

come_to_think

June 6 2014, 01:50:26 UTC 5 months ago

In New England, on Long Island, and perhaps elsewhere in the US, a town is a geographical division of a county with self-government (originally, a town meeting). If you are in Vermont, e.g., you are always in some town or other. In New Jersey, most of the middle west, and perhaps elsewhere, the word "township" is used for such entities.

I was mildly surprised to learn in the above postings that there are American states where "village" has a legal meaning. I mainly encounter "village" as part of an informal proper name of an inhabited region.

This is the kind of thing that, in the US, is bound to vary from state to state according to law and historical tradition.

imps85

June 6 2014, 07:50:52 UTC 5 months ago

Interesting, ok not entirely on topic but in Sweden a "village" whioch has 5 houses within 500 m of each other is considered a town. In German a small town is 10000 inhabitants, or a town right from the medieval ages.

mushroomesque

June 6 2014, 12:21:32 UTC 5 months ago

In terms of New Zealand, I'd personally call all settlements smaller than a city a town, except for the single pre-prescribed one (Egmont Village). To me, a village is something with Barvarian women and thatched rooves, maybe a cow wandering around.

sorrowis_stupid

June 12 2014, 15:08:15 UTC 5 months ago Edited:  June 12 2014, 15:11:39 UTC

I'm from Massachusetts (Northeast US), and the only person I can recall using the word "village" to describe modern areas is my dad, who would use it to refer to different neighborhoods within a town. I think I remember him calling a certain part of my hometown "Cushman Village," which referred to one particular intersection with a general store... Anyway, village isn't typically used in my dialect except when talking about someplace historical and/or outside of the US.

orthent

July 12 2014, 01:20:08 UTC 4 months ago

Commenting on a moldy old post to add that in American fiction, "village" can be a warning that you're in Lovecraft Country. A village is usually a place where the locals don't take kindly to strangers, and you can be sure that the one person who seems salt-of-the-earth kindly knows where all the bodies are buried. Eldritch powers may be involved. Shirley Jackson's short stories--e.g. "The Lottery" and The Summer People--usually take place in a village, typically just called "the village."