nicole and i had a conversation about how my grandmother used to say ‘your room looks like a tenement.’ i realized in the course of the discussion that i had no idea exactly what she meant. tenement connoted ‘poor,’ for nicole. if that’s a common definition, this could have been a somewhat offensive thing to say.
i had just associated the work ‘tenement’ with ‘messy place’ and had expanded it (from context in other circumstances, i’m sure) to also mean ‘rundown.’ roget’s (offline) uses the word poor only in the second definition. wikipedia isn’t very helpful, here.
as an aside, tenement.org is the lower east side tenement museum. they define their mission as:
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s mission is: to promote tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant and migrant experiences on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gateway to America.
something to add to the list for some future visit to nyc.
in the end, we chalked my grandmother’s use of the word up to the same era that saw people regularly use ‘oriental’ and ‘asian’ interchangeably.