Getting off the Brooklyn Bridge today, I saw a sign, in fading paint, on the wall of a building: "Flats to let / So-and-so Realty." Were "flats" and "to let" really once common American lingo? If so, when? And what process banished them from our vocabulary? (I had an English friend vigorously complain to me one pub night that contemporary American English does not distinguish between the function of a landlord, who in England has a flat "to let," and that of a potential tenant, who wishes "to rent" that flat.)


  1. Perhaps in 1950, a man with a vision named Albert Miller moved to Brooklyn from his native England. He had 5000 pounds, a great deal of money in 1950, and a dream to develop New York and carve a place for himself in the real estate world.

    Unfortunately, no one responded to his ads, because what the hell does 'flat to let' mean? He died a broken man at a young age. Today, you can still see, in fading paint, his small mark on the world.

  2. There's a fart joke somewhere in there, isn't there?


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