Monday, November 28, 2022

Stoops to conquer

 The late John Plunkett, for many years an assistant managing editor at The Baltimore Sun and overseer of its copy desk, insisted that in describing Baltimoreans sitting in front of their rowhouses,* one must write that they are sitting on their steps. Stoops, he insisted, was a foreign term imported into Baltimore by reporters hired from out of town, probably from New York, who didn't know the territory. 

Indeed, stoop comes to us from the Dutch stoep, "flight of steps, doorstep, threshold," and etymologists** suggest that it entered English from the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of New York, spreading into American English from there. 

If Mr. Plunkett was correct that the word was carried here by auslanders, the invasive species has taken root. Efforts, always feeble, to extirpate it from the pages of The Sun were abandoned years ago, and it appears without shame in other local publications. The popularity of the Stoop Storytelling series of podcasts and public events indicates a thoroughgoing acceptance.   

Stoop culture prevails. 

* Merriam-WebsterWebster's New World, the Concise Oxford and American Heritage are all under the impression that row house (terrace house in Britain) is two words, but in Baltimore it's rowhouse

** Including H.L. Mencken in The American Language, who also marks the Dutch contributions of bosscruller, coleslaw, dope, spook, snoop, and Santa Claus