I’m driving along a Jersey highway when I see a sign that reads, The Mall at Short Hills.

“God, I hate that,” I say to my friend Alicia. “The Mall at Short Hills. So friggin pretentious.”

For those of you who have never heard of the place, The Short Hills Mall is one of those über affluent consumerist hives that rake in more money than some nation states make from taxing their citizens. Filled with high-end merchants like Hermes, Jimmy-Choos, Cartier, Coach and Ferragamo; the place even displays Porsches and Bentleys next to the water fountains. The place is very, very upscale.

“The haughty use of a preposition,” Alicia says.

“I understand you use at to tell you where something is located,” I say. “But why can’t they just say it’s the Mall in Short Hills?”

“Doesn’t have the same cachet.”

“Using a preposition to make a place sound ritzier? An abuse of English is you ask me.” Alicia shrugs.

Now using “at” in this case is technically acceptable English usage but it grates on me. When popes and royalty used to sign proclamations they’d write “Given at Rome” or “Given at Rheims.” Makes what they were selling sound kind of grand, huh? I should have ended my book with “Given at Paramus.” That’d go over well. Using at like this is kind of like using the royal “we.” Ever listen to anyone who talks like that? Probably not, but if you did you’d want to lop their head off – just like the French used to do.

“You never see stores using at in less affluent areas,” Alicia says.

“Can you imagine The Target at Newark?” I say. “Or The Sears at The Bronx?”

“But look at how real estate people use at,” Alicia says. “Your flimsy townhouse isn’t in a town, its Camelot at Edgewater or Camelot at East Hanover.”

“Funny, its just Camelot Lyndhurst in Lyndhurst.”

“Lyndhurst isn’t a fancy town.”

“But it’s the same exact kind of development. All those places look the same! Built for a builders profit.”

“And some of the people living in those places now have mortgages that cost more than their townhouse.”

I know this sounds crazy, but I’m sure some people bought homes because the use of at in the brochures made their abodes seem fancier than they really were. Just like popes and kings, at made what developers were foisting on their customers sound more grand. Seduced by a preposition. Who would have thunk it?

This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.

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