Tuesday September 5, 2006


Pop quiz, hotshot.  In the opening credits for the old Adventures of Superman TV show, is Clark Kent described as:

...mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper...


...mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper...

You make the call!

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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I'd guess "Metropolitan", since he lived in not just any metropolis, but the city of Metropolis.

Posted by: Clint at Sep 5, 2006 4:04:52 AM

I'd say metropolitan.

How many great newspapers are there in Metropolis? Do we know of any others?

If there are none, then it would be the great Metropolitan newspaper.

I think it more likely that the statement is classing the Daily Planet with great newspapers from other metropolises.

Posted by: Steve at Sep 5, 2006 6:01:59 PM

I vote lowercase, because IIGC (if I Google correctly) the city's name isn't mentioned in the opening credits at all, let alone beforehand, and since it isn't real no-one without prior knowledge of the city's name would assume it was a reference to a proper noun rather than the concept "metropolitan" in general.

Superman would never violate one of Grice's maxims. Luthor, maybe, and especially Brainiac, but not Superman. Well... except for all those times he tricked Jimmy into marrying a gorilla and stuff.

Posted by: Matt at Sep 5, 2006 6:09:39 PM

Oh, and, uh, all those times Lois asked him if he knew Superman well, and he said "I suppose you could say that!" but didn't also supply the extremely pertinent fact that he WAS Superman. Yeah, I guess my thesis is looking pretty bad right now.

Posted by: Matt at Sep 5, 2006 6:12:05 PM

I'd lean towards the uncapitalized only because I know of so few adjective forms for city names. The best newspaper in a city would more likely be modified by the unaltered city name. A great New York newspaper...a great Boston newspaper...a great Battle Creek newspaper...

The adjectival -an suffix more commonly latches onto a country name. And would the adj form even be Metropolitan? Might not the root be preserved for a city name leading to an awkward ad hoc form like Metropolisian?

I don't see enough adj productivity with city names to call for caps.

Posted by: Michael at Sep 5, 2006 9:20:26 PM

I think Metropolitan is a legitimate adjective: there's a lot of odd forms like Glaswegian, Utahn, Liverpudlian, Bostonian, Mancunian, Atlantean and Novocastrian.

Posted by: Steve at Sep 5, 2006 11:29:40 PM

Definitely Steve - in fact I was thinking of Bostonian Washingtonian and Liverpudlian when I was trying to think of the relevant forms. But are those very productive morphologies? (Then again how productive does it need to be when the adjective form metropolitan is out there already set to be used?)

My main claim would be that city names tend to serve as their own preposed adjectives.

Your original argument ("a great" vs "the great") is a sharper point than mine.

Posted by: Michael at Sep 6, 2006 2:24:39 AM

If the capitalised form is intended, I feel it would be less awkward to simply say "a great Metropolis newspaper".

So I think it is the lowercase form. But I'm sure the word was chosen intentionally to refer to the name of the city.

Posted by: Jon at Sep 6, 2006 10:51:57 PM

Do we have any other attested uses of "Metropolitan" to mean "of Metropolis"?

Posted by: David Moles at Sep 7, 2006 10:31:00 PM

Some cursory googling produces in-comic mentions of:

There are also uses of Metropolitan (capitalized) by fans, such as, "all sorts of Metropolitan landmarks" and "would occasionally assist fellow Metropolitan Superman".

I have to say, I don't have a strong opinion of which way they meant it in the original TV show credits. Both make sense—both "major Bostonian newspaper" and "major urban newspaper" seem perfectly reasonable to me—so there's probably no way to know which was intended.

Posted by: The Tensor at Sep 8, 2006 1:39:31 AM

I don't think "major Bostonian newspaper" does sound right. I certainly wouldn't refer to a "major Washingtonian newspaper" rather than a "major Washington newspaper". I agree with Michael that city (and state) adjectives are rarely used attributively -- the name of the city (or state) is used instead:

  • Boston newspaper, not Bostonian newspaper
  • Virginia ham, not Virginian ham
  • Texas oilfield, not Texan oilfield
Countries of course work differently:
  • French wine, not France wine
  • Belgian waffle, not Belgium waffle (except on a distressingly large number of illiterate menus)
Strangely, though, the newest two states are still treated as foreign:
  • Alaskan oilfield, not Alaska oilfield
  • Hawaiian pineapple, not Hawaii pineapple

Posted by: KCinDC at Sep 8, 2006 6:43:15 PM

I agreed intuitively with "metropolitan" and am gratified to see some real evidence for that position.

Of course, I grew up on these re-runs as a kid and thought for some time that CK was a mild-mannered reporter for a "quaint metropolitan newspaper..."

Well, it was quaint, viewed so many years on... ;-)

Posted by: brachiator at Sep 16, 2006 9:32:17 PM