Writing about urban policy issues, as we do here at The Atlantic Cities each day, can often be an exercise in translating wonky terminology for the everyday reader. The kinds of issues that these terms bring up –– how and where we live, get to work, and enjoy our free time –– are far too relevant to be the victims of off-putting technical jargon and lame buzzwords. Below, some of the worst offenders we hope urbanists (that one, too) think more carefully about deploying in 2014, including some New Year's resolutions of our own.
Urbanism: At first glance, this word might seem utilitarian: urban is a perfectly fine word, and -ism, meaning a "distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement," a frequently helpful English language suffix. But this particular combination never fails to makes me cringe when I hear it spoken aloud. Not only does it imply that there exists some universally accepted ideology of the best way to construct, organize, and manage any given urban area, it's frequently misapplied as a term for the study of urban issues (shouldn't that be urbanology?) or the basic interaction of people and things within an urban environment. Deploying this word should be undertaken with extreme caution, and always with the understanding that it almost never carries real meaning. -Sommer Mathis