Here at streets.mn, we think long and hard about language. For example, we endeavor to resist common planning and engineering tendencies toward the Acronym-ification of Jargon (AoJ), and we likewise take great pains to please our online stakeholders by avoiding implementation of marginal buzzwords in the name of linguistic vitality.
But that said, there’s one acronym in particular that keeps popping up in debates over land use and transportation issues: the dreaded NIMBY or Not In My Backyard. The use of the term NIMBY has gotten so widespread that one of our intrepid writers, a young man named Nick Magrino, has taken it upon himself to wage a one-person campaign against the over- and mis-use of this term. For example, Magrino’s first ever post on this site was titled, “Let’s Stop Calling People NIMBYs“. There, Magrino made the following argument:
I guess the point is that when you just roll your eyes and call someone a NIMBY (or more likely, type it about them anonymously on the Internet amongst people you already agree with) you’re simplifying and trivializing a complex and important issue. If we want to change the status quo, we absolutely have to do a better job of communicating with the public.
Since then, Magrino has kept up the anti-NIMBY (aNIMBY) pressure, popping up in comment threads to raise again his aNIMBY cry…
This led me to ponder the question: has Magrino’s anti-NIMBY campaign been effective? Have streets.mn writers reduced their NIMBY usage rates?
Here’s what the data tells us…
On the one hand, uses of the term “NIMBY” on streets.mn appear to be rising over time. In the early days of the site, a 5-NIMBY month was a noteworthy occasion. These days, however, a double-digit NIMBY month is not unheard of. It’s a worrisome trend!
But this analysis does not take into account streets.mn’s growing postage rates, which make even the USPS look good by comparison. When the total monthly NIMBY count is weighted against the average number of posts per month, does our trend hold?
As we can see, here the numbers look far better. There were many recent months that featured few or no NIMBYs, and when averaged out across the recent rates of 60+ posts per month, streets.mn NIMBY rates appear to be largely flat.
One of the big ironies of Magrino’s aNIMBY campaign is each time he calls for a reduction in NIMBY usage, Magrino uses the term NIMBY again. In fact, this post that you are reading right now, analyzing reductions in NIMBY usage, will rather tragically cause the site’s overall NIMBY total to skyrocket. Ironically, I have used the term NIMBY no less than 24 times so far in this post. And each subsequent invocation is yet one more NIMBY into the bucket. (There, that’s 25.) How are supposed to stop using the term NIMBY if, each time we call for its abandonment, we must recite its foul name? (26.)
Life is filled with great ironies. Perhaps this is one of them. Even in death, the NIMBY spectre haunts us from the grave.
NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY!
(Good stuff, Bill)
I mean if words don’t mean anything then what’s left?
We should make a list of terms that urbanists have over-used (I’m certainly guilty, though I made it through 2 conservation district comment sections without using N***Y!). Similarly, I’d like to have the list of words commandeered by people who support auto-oriented design or oppose certain developments (for a variety of reasons). One example is using ‘pedestrian/human-scale’ to describe just about anything (even if there are 4 12′ lanes and only 20′ total of sidewalk).
Perhaps the problem is we don’t have a well-known word/acronym to describe people who are just anti-development. I agree, NIMBY has been stretched beyond its meaning, but it’s also not completely misrepresentative either.
There are other, more accurate acronyms to describe people against everything, but they just aren’t in the zeitgeist like NIMBY.
A few of my favorites are:
CAVE (people): Citizens Against Virtually Everything
BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything
But in this instance, the most accurate (and creative) might be this:
FRUITs: Fear of Revitalization Urban-Infill and Towers
“People against everything” is good. 🙂
Or, let’s ask this: why is NIMBY an issue?