Baltimore is a city of many neighborhoods, and some guard their identities more closely than others. Elizabeth Large tells me that readers of her Dining @ Large blog regularly castigate her for neighborhood references that they consider inaccurate. We get similar complaints on the copy desk, particularly when an article locates a crime in a neighborhood that doesn’t want to claim it.
The problem is that there is no reliable method of determining accuracy. For example, I live in a neighborhood called Hamilton. Everyone there calls it Hamilton. Everyone else in Baltimore calls it Hamilton. The city’s official map of neighborhoods has no Hamilton. According to the city map, I live in Harford-Echodale/Perring Parkway, a locution I have not heard anyone use in the 21 years I’ve lived there.
The city map represents the boundaries some committee of municipal bureaucrats draw to codify local nomenclature. But local practice varies. Ask where Federal Hill leaves off and South Baltimore begins, and you will get differing answers from people who live there. There is a Charles Village assessment district, which does have formal boundaries, but you can get disagreement on whether the assessment district and the neighborhood are conterminous.
So we make an effort to identify locations within the fluid boundaries established by common usage, so far as we can determine it. But exactitude is elusive, and possibly illusory.
My advice to Ms. Large: Tell people who complain that she has put a restaurant in the wrong neighborhood to get a life.