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A.Word.A.Day--Madison Avenue

Pronunciation RealAudio

Madison Avenue (MAD-uh-suhn AV-uh-nyoo) adjective

1. Glitzy; insincere; deceptive.

2. Representing values and practices of the advertising and public relations industries.

noun

US advertising industry.

[After Madison Avenue, a street in New York City that was once the center of the US advertising industry. Perhaps it is symbolic that Park Avenue runs parallel to Madison Avenue.]

"[South Africa] focuses unprecedented resources on a Madison Avenue- style HIV-prevention campaign targeted at young people. What is needed instead is a broad mobilization of civic, religious and other grass-roots communities, combined with clear and committed political leadership." Daniel Halperin and Brian Williams; This Is No Way to Fight AIDS in Africa; The Washington Post; Aug 26, 2001.

The advertising industry got its name from the eponymous street name. But where did the street get its name from? Answer: from the place where it starts - Madison Square. So why was Madison Square called Madison Square? It was named in honor of James Madison, fourth President of the United States.

Who would have thought Madison, this shy, serious, short man (at 5'4", the shortest president in the US history) would one day have his name tacked to the industry noted for its bombast and tall tales?

And where did James Madison get his name from? Of course, from his dad Colonel James Madison, Sr. The name Madison indicated a son of Madde, Maud, Madeleine, or Matthew. These days, it's a popular name for both boys and girls.

Numerous locations in the Big Apple have become metaphors in themselves: Park Avenue for luxury, fashion, affluence, and high living; or Broadway. What comes to mind when you think of Broadway? Theater.

This week in A.Word.A.Day we'll feature terms having origins in New York that have now become allusions.

-Anu Garg garg AT wordsmith.org

X-Bonus

What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious. -Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator, writer (106-43 BCE)

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