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Mon, June 17

Williams: What is a ‘clustered human settlement’?

I wish to predict that by the end of this column, neither you nor I will be wiser, more fully informed or even slightly better educated than we all are right now.

Nevertheless, I need to confess that I’ve been confused over the years about various terms referring to human settlements. Some people live in villages, some live in towns, some in hamlets, boroughs, parishes or burgs. Or cities. Or communities. Or provinces or precincts. Then there are suburbs and outskirts. Enough!

By the way, if there are outskirts, why aren’t there inskirts for houses just down the block?

This quandary in which I find myself was brought on by our planned celebration of the 50th anniversary of Chino Valley in a couple of years. You see, when we incorporated in 1970, we became an official “town.” As the “town” thing popped up, I wondered, what, exactly is a town? I found out that it is “an urban area that has a name, defined boundaries, and local government, and that is generally larger than a village and smaller than a city.” Hmm. Larger than a village and smaller than a city?

So, what’s a village? According to people who say they know, a village “is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand.”

So, what’s a hamlet? My first guess is that a hamlet would be a small breakfast joint on a back street where pork-flavored omelets are made. My back up definition would be a neighbor of Shakespeare’s three doors down on the left. In desperation, it could be a very small piglet. But that would be too easy.

No, a hamlet is a gathering of homes smaller than a village with, usually, fewer than 100 people stuck there.

We now know that a town is larger than a village and smaller than a city. What, pray tell, is the exact definition of a “city”? The first explanation I found told me that “a city is a large town.” Oh, God help us all.

By persisting in this most important inquiry, I found, more precisely, that “Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, and communication. Their density encourages interaction… sometimes benefiting different parties in the process.” OK, fine.

I love the last few words here, “sometimes benefiting different parties in the process,” which explains why I like the Town of Chino Valley over any city. My personal opinion is when more people subsist in one place such as in a city, the collective IQ plummets, but that’s only me.

I’ve found out there’s actually a hierarchy of human settlements. Among the largest is the megalopolis, which is a group of large cities with a population of greater than 10 million.

There’s no reason to know any of this, but the list from large to small continues with metropolis, city, town, village, hamlet and finally, isolated dwelling, which I would find highly appealing most of the time. If I lived in an isolated dwelling, I could hang my underwear on the backyard clothesline fulltime without fear of ridicule.

I could play my Weird Al Yankovic and Ray Stevens albums at full volume any time I liked and pay lower property taxes for the privilege.

But back to the topic at hand, this column may be the first in a series of 20 since we haven’t even discussed boroughs, parishes, or burgs or provinces, proverbs or precincts. Or small South African villages called dorps.

We’re just getting started, people.

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