Linguistic Landscape

By: Maya Ronen

As one of Manhattan’s main arteries, Lexington Avenue has seen many changes throughout the years, mirroring the city’s own expansion and development. Named after the pivotal American Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington, which took place in 1832, Lexington Avenue was formally opened in 1811 as part of the Commissioners’ Plan. Because it linked the thriving downtown to the uptown neighborhoods that were just beginning to emerge, this avenue became an important transportation and commercial corridor very fast. As the city’s middle and upper classes grew, Lexington Avenue became a place where beautiful brownstones and townhouses sprung up. Its status as one of New York City’s busiest and most important transit lines was further cemented with the construction of the Lexington Avenue subway line in the early 20th century. Embracing Manhattan’s eclectic and ever-evolving spirit, Lexington Avenue today is a colorful mix of historic architecture and modern developments. It exemplifies how the city has managed to preserve its history while also meeting the needs of its varied population.

Tuesday afternoon, I took pictures of the landscape of Lexington Avenue. After a brief history with the Manhattan world, Lexington Avenue uses the street’s old-fashioned signs to get people’s attention to buy food and juices. Who knows, maybe 3 NYC shirts for 10.99$? While walking down the streets of Lexington Ave, I noticed the argument for the promotion; after all, all we can find near Lexington Ave are business people, or at least from my knowledge from living (and not loving) for one year in the landscape. For example, Business people wear luxury YSL suits, but you can tell it’s fake… Well, you, the reader, are probably wondering why I’m telling you this; well, the reason is that Lexington Ave is just like the idea of NYC: poor people living below rich ones. Lexington Avenue perfectly encapsulates the city’s essence with its seamless blend of high and low, rich and poor. Like people experiencing homelessness, every storefront and street corner tells a story of ambition, survival, pretense, and sometimes reality. In the signs I have taken pictures of, people are looking for a place to live, which will tell a whole story. Another one you probably haven’t noticed is in picture N. 4, where a Hebrew says “free latest news,” which is the most famous magazine in Israel. Everything has a story. Lexington Avenue, with its eclectic mix of signs, captures the essence of the city: a complex, ever-changing story of highs and lows.

Although excitement can be found in the most insignificant things, Lexington Avenue can be a chaotic place for a young adult who is 18. This is although there is excitement on Lexington Avenue. For instance, there is a lot of pressure to buy more and more food all over the city, and you are expected to buy as much as possible. Furthermore, you are expected to buy as much as you possibly can. Some phrases, such as the one depicted in the image below, taken from the Paris Baguette commercial, can be found on the streets of Paris. These phrases read “Moments Made,” following that, there is a miniature version of the Nutella logo on the left side of the message. To tell you the truth, the phrase did not impress me because it is very “browed” in the words it chooses to use. To give you an example, the phrase “moments made” makes me think of a terrifying machine responsible for creating memories. In addition, the marketing strategy that was used in conjunction with the format of the text was something that I did not like because, when I read it, it did not in any way remind me of Nutella. If I had not read the word “Nutella” on the left-hand sight, it would not have been unusual for a person walking down the street to be able to comprehend that this is connected to the particular product, Nutella. This is because there was nothing unusual about its understanding.

Although the tromotized understanding and marketing skills in the last commercial I toke picture off , bellow me there are two other commercials that were taken on the exact same avenue, Lexington, and impressed me. I will start from the Juice Generation example, the phrase that is written says: “GET UR GREEN ON”, which I was amazed from, and I will tell you why. From first look, you can relate the colors together to something really bright and cool for the right target audience, secondly what I was impressed about the most are the backgrounds that reminded me of being on a vacation in the Caribs instead of just taking pictures for your professor on one sudden evening, if the target audience can relate with what I just wrote, it is the perfect manipulation to buy an overpriced green juice that is easily homemade. For the second commercial example, I chose here to present the SweetGreen’s new Chicken Fajita bowl. The front is good, very simple very readable and doesn’t even catch the eye so much as the Juice Generation commercial. Still, it is intriguing what even is written in just four simple words: “Southwest Chicken Fajita (NEW)”, for the people who like of course. And the people who like Southwest food will immediately be intrigued buy the first word. Bellow the two pictures you can see the last commercial for SweetGreen, that I was impressed by the marketing skills of. Again , the Sweetgreen advertisements seem pretty to the point and similar in the way of thinking of creating them. For all the three commercials i would pay attention on the street if i would pass them, i would probably even go to the sweet green and grab the bowl.

After discussing the marketing choices of the restaurants, coffee shops, or whatever I’ve just shown you, I will discuss the landscape generally, focusing on all the signs together to reference the linguistic landscape. To start, lets generally say that: all the pictures are trying to sell you something. Even without noticing, the market made some psychological ways to sell something without noticing. For reference, the poster with the sandwich on it, the poster in hebrew that says: “Free Magazines!”, I know theyre free, but at the end of the day the company will try to sell you another magazine by making the magazine interesting enough for you to read. But not just to the ordinary person the system is trying to sell stuff, also students are invited for summer tours at the Found Study dorms for the summer so they could have interest in the subject. Anothe example is a poster that has been talked about before but, references what i want: GET UR GREEN ON! By Juice Generation, references just what I want, the make the buyer think he needs to eat or drink in that case more greens, and by that making him somehow to buy the Juice Generation Green Juice.

The language scene along Lexington Avenue is a potent representation of the diverse mix of cultures, histories, and industries that make up New York City. Named after a pivotal American Revolutionary War engagement and officially opened in 1811 as part of the Commissioners’ Plan, this road has changed considerably throughout the years. As the city has changed and evolved, Lexington Avenue has transformed from a vital link between downtown and the growing uptown neighborhoods into a colorful mosaic of old and new. As a vital artery of Manhattan, the Lexington Avenue subway line was further solidified during its construction in the early 20th century, guaranteeing its place in the daily lives of countless New Yorkers.

I was amazed by how these visual components capture the spirit of the city as I strolled down Lexington Avenue on a Tuesday afternoon, photographing the eclectic mix of signs and advertisements. The city’s complex social fabric is demonstrated by the juxtaposition of opulence and austerity, wealth and poverty. From ads for luxury goods to those for food and shelter, the signs convey themes of determination, self-discovery, and the will to survive. A lot of city life is defined by the presence of both real and fake things, like the Yves Saint Laurent suits that businesspeople wear.

To sum up, Lexington Avenue’s linguistic landscape provides a glimpse into the essence of New York City. The complex relationship between language, commerce, and identity is brought to light, showcasing the coexistence of the city’s history and present in a constantly evolving setting. We can learn more about the cultural and economic factors that impact city life by studying the signs and ads that line this famous avenue. An essential aspect of any visit to New York City, Lexington Avenue is a living testimony to the city’s capacity to respect its past while looking forward to its future.