Cambridge has been annexed by The Improper Bostonian in its “30 Reasons Why We Love Boston,” a list that includes Harvard Square.
Before you start whining that Harvard Square is in Cambridge, not Boston, the piece reads, let’s get one thing straight: Cambridge is just an outcropping of Boston. In fact, when Harvard was founded, the area surrounding it was referred to simply as “the new land” until -- lacking a sense of urgency or originality -- our forefathers named the land for an English university town and were done with it.
Having spent about a third of the text justifying their decision, the Improper editors go on to extol the delights of the square, summing up that “It’s still got the funk.”
Thanks. But the compliments are backhanded and inspire biting, especially since the Improper is abusing history in its desperation to justify the inclusion. Cambridge had the name “Newtowne,” not the general description “the new land,” when Harvard was founded, so there was no urgency to change it. It’s not like the villagers were just moping around for eight years, fitfully trying to come up with a name but failing through lack of stick-to-itiveness.
Further, the city was not and is not an outcropping of Boston (which was eight miles away when Cambridge was founded, so even the geological metaphor doesn’t work) and calling it one is about as meaningful as calling Somerville an outcropping of Cambridge.
If pointing out a geographical or historical inaccuracy is “whining,” certainly the editors of The Improper Bostonian would reject this philosophical objection as well. So be it. But if they’re going to hang out in Boston’s Harvard Square, I’m going to abandon it for Cambridge’s Davis Square.
If that keeps up, pretty soon they’ll find themselves not so welcome in Quincy’s Copley Square.