When I was in college at Georgetown University in the 1970s, my friends moved off campus into the neighborhood just north of Georgetown. We all called it Glover (rhymes with "lover") Park. I've been back in D.C. since the 1990s, and now I'm hearing it called Glover (rhymes with "rover") Park -- especially when I take the newer buses over that way which announce the stops over a loudspeaker. Was I pronouncing the name of the neighborhood wrong back in the '70s? Or has the pronunciation of the name changed over the years?
Amy Hubbard, Washington
You say GLOH-ver and I say GLUH-ver
You say NOOK-yu-lar and I say NOO-klee-er
Let's call the whole thing off!
Thank you, thank you. I'll be appearing here through the weekend.
The older Answer Man gets, the more he feels that language is an imperfect tool. He sometimes thinks he will stop speaking completely and just carry around a dry-erase board and a marker, or perhaps rely on a flipbook containing images he could use to have a "conversation":
[Picture of sandwich] + [picture of Answer Man pointing at his stomach] = "I'm hungry."
But back to the question at hand: How do you pronounce the name of the neighborhood that's west of Wisconsin Avenue and north of W Street NW? GLOH-ver or GLUH-ver?
Carlton Fletcher has lived in Glover Park for 30 years and has contributed articles on the neighborhood's history for the Glover Park Gazette. "From time to time, people ask me about that, and I can't really say that there's a correct pronunciation," he said. "If you find people who have either grown up in that neighborhood or have spent considerable time around people from that neighborhood, it's quite possible that they'll say 'Glover Park' as in 'rover.' "
GLOH-ver Park. "That's what we used to say," said Kathleen McCormick, who lived in the neighborhood from her birth in 1942 until the sixth grade, when her family moved to Arlington.
Ditto for Bob Kohlmeyer, who runs the neighborhood listserv. In an e-mail, he explained that when he's asked how it's pronounced, he says it sounds like "Grover, the Muppet, not Danny Glover, the real star of 'Lethal Weapon.' "
And Metro's Steven Taubenkibel confirms that's how it's pronounced on the automatic announcements on buses that serve the neighborhood.
Carlton said he leans toward GLUH-ver Park because surnames often have historical connections to professions -- think Cooper, Shepherd, etc. He thinks the name might have originally come from a family that made gloves. (And not, it hardly bears mentioning, "glohves.")
Apropos of nothing except the strange conversation we were having, Carlton said that his wife is a bird-watcher. When they were at the beach once, she challenged him to use her birding book to identify a species cavorting in the surf.
"I said, 'It's a plover,' " Carlton remembered, pronouncing the bird to rhyme with "rover."
Hardcore birders know that it's pronounced PLUH-ver.
But what of Glover Park? Said Carlton: "Someone in the neighborhood said, 'Couldn't we get to the bottom of this by finding out how the Glovers pronounced it? Maybe we should ask the family.' "
"I said, 'But suppose they turn out to rhyme it with "mover"? Then we'd be in a real mess.' "
Who exactly was the Glover behind Glover Park, anyway? He was Charles Carroll Glover, born in 1846. He rose from a teller at Riggs Bank to the bank's president. He also served as president of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and was one of the chief movers behind the construction of Washington National Cathedral. He was a major civic booster and donated much of the land that became Rock Creek Park.
Charles C. Glover died in 1936, but I called Nancy Symington, nee Glover, his 84-year-old granddaughter, and asked her how she pronounces her maiden name.
Drumroll, please. . . .
"GLUH-ver. Please. Everybody calls it GLOH-ver, and it's absolutely wrong. It's GLUH-ver Park."
And then she said, "Call the bus people and tell them to shape up. I mean, really. That's terrible."
I asked Nancy whether she went out of her way to correct people who mangle the family name. Not really, she said.
"I have enough trouble with my married name."
For the record, it's SY-ming-ton, not SIH-ming-ton.
Look Through Any Window
Two weeks ago in this space, we explored the fishbowl existence that many who reside in Old Town Alexandria experience. That brought this comment from Anne Monahan:
"Talk to many Old Town Alexandria residents (we've lived here 29 years) and you'll find they consider street-level rooms 'public rooms,' to be kept neat and viewable for the tourists. We frequently have our shutters open because I am a bit claustrophobic. It's been entertaining over the years to watch the tourists watch us. My children will never forget the woman, nose pressed to the window pane, who commented: 'I like the country Hepplewhite stand, but that print is really tacky.' "
Julia Feldmeier (that's FEHLD-my-ur) helped research this column. If you have a question about the Washington area, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your name and the town you live in.