November 30, 2009

The Space Between

While composing the previous post, we wondered whether there should be a space between the Le and the Droit in the name LeDroit Park.  Many old maps spell the neighborhood with a space, but more recent references exclude the space.

LeDroit Park Illustrated

In 1877 real estate speculator Amzi Barber published a pamphlet entitled LeDroit Park Illustrated to promote his fledgling suburban neighborhood.  The highly stylized typeface and arched layout of the pamphlet’s title make it harder to decipher whether or not there is a full space between the Le and the Droit.  However, the space between Le and Droit is nothing like the ample, ornamented space preceding the word Park.  Thus, one is inclined to assume that LeDroit was one word.

However, the bottom of the pamphlet lists the author as “A. L. BARBER & CO., PROPRIETORS OF LE DROIT PARK”— space included— and this space also appears in other early references to the area.

Today, the answer leans overwhelmingly toward excluding the space: we exclude it in our title, the LeDroit Park Civic Association excludes the space on its site, the Washington Post excludes the space, as does the D.C. Office of Planning, and the entry gate at 6th and T Streets (pictured in the header above) makes no room for it either.

Interestingly, the world’s two largest digital street cartographers are divided.  The Dutch company Tele Atlas, which serves as the source of Google Maps, includes the space, whereas Chicago’s NAVTEQ, the source of bing maps and Mapquest, excludes it.

Including the space is not really “wrong”, but feels like a quaint historic artifact, like the human appendix or the English monarchy.

* * *

While living in P.G. County for four years, we once came upon an official document that read “County of Prince George’s”, which appeared grammatically incorrect since the possessive word 0f obviates the need for the possessive ‘s at the end.  Nonetheless, everyone has come to know the place with the apostrophe since County usually follows rather than precedes the name.

John Kelly in the Post uncovered the history of the apostrophe in the name Prince George’s County:

But in 1952, Maryland state archivist Morris L. Radoff insisted the apostrophe was correct. Yes, some early records had been found without the apostrophe, “but it just wasn’t used often in the 17th century,” he told The Post. He admitted that the original engrossed acts of the General Assembly were destroyed by a fire in the State House in 1704.

What’s clear is that for most of the 20th century it was Washington Post style not to use the apostrophe. In fact, in a 1947 article about efforts by the newly formed Prince George’s Press Association to encourage publications to use the apostrophe, The Post left the apostrophe out, referring to the “Prince Georges Press Association.”

Having disappeared from print, the apostrophe is back and we suspect it’s back for good— unless a sudden influx of francophones rechristen the county with the French version of George, i.g. Georges.

Categories: History

1 Reply

  1. […] have studied the neighborhood’s name before, noting that ‘Le Droit’ evolved to ‘LeDroit’. But wait, there’s more! The neighborhood’s pronunciation is still debated […]

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