Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Location, Location, Location

Back in the late 80’s I worked for a local developer named Fred Glassberg. Fred’s company, Crystal Hill Investments, developed a few office and industrial properties in and around Columbia and I had signed on as his marketing and leasing guy. One of the marketing gimmicks we dreamed up was a lapel pin that simply said “location, location, location” which is the well worn punch line of the joke, “What are the three most important things in real estate?”

We had a lot of fun with those pins. Over the years, long after I left Fred’s employment, I would still occasionally wear the pin on my blazer. I was often asked where I got it from and if I could get another one.

Earlier this summer, as I was leafing through the June 26th edition of The New York Times Magazine, I came across a column by William Safire entitled “Location, Location, Location.” In his column, Safire sought to determine whether this expression was originally coined by Lord Harold Samuel as was claimed in his obituary in the Sunday Times in 1987.

According to Safire that isn’t likely. He was able to find the expression used in a “1926 real estate classified ad in the Chicago Tribune.”

“That usage appeared when Harold Samuel was 14 years old in London, too young to make deals. The context of the 1926 ad suggests it was already a familiar aphorism in Chicago; phrasal etymologists are not yet finished with this challenge, and the Lexicographic Irregulars are invited to weigh in.”

The mystery remains. If you think you may have the answer drop him a note at safireonlanguage@nytimes.com.