Cities, sustainable placemaking, and the careful use of words

I’ve been clean and sober for 20 months now and still counting.  Lest you think that I am about to take you down a path of Too Much Information, please join me in lifting a beverage of choice to celebrate that it has been at least that long since I last used the word “vibrant” in my writing.  I won’t speak for everyone, but for me the word had become so overused in expressing what smart growth and urban advocates seek in communities that it had become annoying at best, lazy and hackneyed at worst, stripped of fresh meaning by repetition.  Enough already.

But it was also more than that:  I’m not even sure that “vibrancy” is always a desired outcome.  Merriam-Webster defines vibrant as “(1): oscillating or pulsating rapidly (2): pulsating with life, vigor, or activity <a vibrant personality>.”  While the second of those meanings certainly describes one kind of place (or person, for that matter) that can be very desirable in the right context, I don’t buy that lively places are inherently superior to calm ones as locations to live, work and visit.  We should support vibrant cities and neighborhoods, yes, but we should strive to preserve and create serene ones, too.

So, for several reasons I remain done with the word.  More about vocabulary in a minute but, first, a personal detour:

Acquiring fresh perspective