In a stunning about-face, the New York Times has turned the farm-to-tables on "Très Brooklyn!" and confronted USA Today for, essentially, co-opting their term, and, for that matter, their trend piece M.O. If none of this makes sense, you are probably a person still blissfully unaware of the term "Très Brooklyn!" We are about to change that.
In June, New York Times writer Julia Moskin introduced that dubious phrase into the lexicon, claiming, "Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than 'très Brooklyn,' a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality." Her basis for this claim that real, live French people had internalized the values and culture of a New York outer borough was the abundance of delicacies served from food trucks near the Canal St. Martin. Debates and debunkings ensued. Was this just The New York Times again making use of a trend piece stable, the "Brooklyn-esquing" of yet another thing? (See man buns, Nashville, the Rockaways, and so on?) Quite possibly. The matter was largely dropped. But then, Tuesday, USA Today grabbed onto not only the phrase "Très Brooklyn!" but also took possession of the Grey Lady's trend-piece shtick, publishing their own hipster-referencing French-accented article on how Brooklyn is now cool. Oh no they didn't! Oh yes they did.
Andy Newman of The Times struck back with a bloggy post on City Room, cajoling USA Today with tongue in cheek for being so late to the game and, also, we infer, for biting The Times' trend piece style:
Brooklyn’s days as an unsophisticated and unfashionable urban backwater? Over.
Its role as the butt of the greater New York area’s jokes? History.
Remember the sad-sack loserville once known primarily for its grating accent and odd foods like knishes and lox? As they say in the borough of churches, “Fuhgeddaboudit!”
It’s all right there on the front page of Tuesday’s USA Today: Brooklyn has arrived, “reborn as chic Bohemia,” according to the nation’s newspaper. Why, the paper notes, residents now say it’s “the coolest place in America, a land of rooftop farms and pop-up art galleries, of haircuts, eyeglasses, hats and body piercings so chic that even Parisians utter, ‘Très Brooklyn!’”
Newman included something of a disclaimer admitting that maybe The Times didn't have that much cause to get high and mighty—"While The New York Times has on occasion been late to the party when it comes to what demographers call 'hip trends,' the USA Today article has put us on notice that we can no longer afford to ignore the place that the Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz calls “New York’s Left Bank,"" he wrote. But commenters didn't seem to care, instead focusing on the fact that The Times was condemning what The Times was guilty of. Hypocrisy! A tempest in an Internet teakettle ensued. As commenter "heather" pointed out, linking to an Atlantic Wire piece (thanks, Heather!):
Are you trying to make us forget that Brian Williams made this same point about the Times in 2010? Brilliantly?
I spoke to Newman last night about the reaction. "I was surprised when I checked Twitter and saw it had been retweeted some 350 times," he told me. "I was somewhat surprised to see that most people tweeting it didn't get the joke ... surprised, but not surprised."
Still, "all attention is great," he said, "even from people who misunderstand the piece willfully or through ignorance. We included that sentence [the disclaimer] to inoculate ourselves from accusations of razzing something we've been doing for years. It was only partly successful, but it shows that some people are more inclined to read the entire piece before they comment." I asked Newman if he knew when the very first Brooklyn trend piece was published in The Times. He said, jokingly, "Probably in 1898. Right after consolidation."
So, where did the phrase that's stirring up so much controversy actually come from? Julia Moskin, the writer of that original New York Times piece that appears to have brought the phrase into the American lexicon, tells us, "I heard it from a (French) friend in Paris and then ran it by people who were waiting on line at the food truck near the Canal St. Martin, which is like the Williamsburg of Paris. That's a narrow slice of the French population, granted, but they all had heard the term."
The Williamsburg of Paris! Or, perhaps, the Paris of Williamsburg? In either case, we see a trend piece.