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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nondescript

I think many people have a favorite phrase or word and they often overuse it, use it inappropriately, or are unaware that they use it as much as they do. And, of course, the power of words or phrases are diminished by overuse, so this can be quite torturous. A fine balance needs to be achieved - the desire to brandish the word at every appropriate opportunity must be reigned in and evaluated by the worthiness of the situation.

So titling an article such as this one using one of my favorite words, nondescript, is, likewise, a big consideration. It can really only be used once this way, so its application subject must be considered carefully, like a job applicant for a top position.

The first time I became acquainted with the word nondescript was in an architecture article regarding a building in New York City. I was so very pleased - it was exactly a word I had being looking for. Nothing fits the bill so well when needed, and I was glad to replace descriptives such as dull, boring, or no character.

Fortunately, avoiding the overuse of the word nondescript in New York City is not too difficult - there is much character and interest in most any given vista. For a fine use of the word nondescript in Manhattan, you need to take a trip to the Upper East Side, along Second or Third Avenues. Here, you have a parade of tall, postwar, nondescript apartment buildings, as far as the eye can see.

Perhaps this is why Neil Simon chose to use the title Prisoner of Second Avenue for his play (later adapted as a screenplay for the film of the same name). After all, Prisoner of Park Avenue has a rather disingenuous ring, doesn't it? In the play/film, protagonist middle-aged Mel Edison has lost his job, and the situation is exacerbated by a litany of city problems. What better insult to injury than to set the whole thing in a nondescript high-rise building on a characterless Second Avenue?

In keeping with the title of this story, today's photo is on a strip of Second Avenue of no particular interest, with buildings which are, shall we say, nondescript? :)

Movie note: If you have not seen Prisoner of Second Avenue, I recommend it, as I recommend any of Jack Lemmon's comedies, particularly those set in New York City: The Apartment, The Odd Couple and one of my personal favorites, The Out-of-Towners (1970). These films, like many of Woody Allen's, dig deep into the urban neuroses of New York City life. The Neil Simon scripts crackle, and Jack Lemmon plays the quintessential New Yorker at wit's end.

4 comments:

arabesque said...

hmmm, the word nondescript... certainly a new word for some1 who doesn't use english that often. ^-^
this foto may look ordinary but i like how the bldgs. are juxtapose to each other,and yes, a lot of films by w.allen were inspired by this kind of setting.
good of you to mention, but i have yet to watch the film you recommend.

utsunomiyadailyphoto said...

oh no! how could you say that the UES is nondescript? It's totally "descript" you just need to look carefully. Each block, contrary to what people may think, is different, heck, each street corner has its own "flavor". Nondescript are the NJ suburb, or some of the towns on LI, but not the UES.
:)
BTW, love your blog, will be back. :)
PS> We used to live on 70th St, between 2nd and 3rd Ave and loved it there. LOL!

Mary said...

It all depends on scale--how close you are to the individual building or corner. You've got to get down to the nitty-gritty to appreciate the particulars!

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