Shane’s Excellent New Words: NIMBY versus YIMBY, though not to neglect BANANA


Now I’m hiding in Honduras
I’m a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The shit has hit the fan

— Warren Zevon

“Shane’s Excellent New Words” was a regular feature at the old NA Confidential. It came about because a municipal functionary (not Legal Bagel, however) once made the comment that folks like me enjoy using big words to suggest we’re smarter than — well, him.

It’s true, of course. I am smarter than him, and his own fear of big words is well-founded, but this isn’t unusual in places like New Albany, where hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (or as rendered “sesquipedalophobia”) is rampant.

This long word (it’s almost an example of an onomatopoeia) means exactly what you’d probably expect.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the fear of long words can trigger embarrassment or feelings of being mocked when pronouncing or reading long words.

My position remains that a healthy vocabulary isn’t about trying to show you’re smarter than the rest. To the contrary, it’s about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one’s pay grade or station in life.

Let’s revive the column to fit our reconfigured purposes, and turn to two familiar acronyms. NIMBY is enjoying somewhat of a local renaissance, while YIMBY hasn’t really penetrated New Albany consciousness in the year 2021.

NIMBY, an acronym for the phrase “not in my back yard”, or Nimby, is a characterization of opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local area, as well as support for strict land use regulations. It carries the connotation that such residents are only opposing the development because it is close to them and that they would tolerate or support it if it were built farther away. The residents are often called Nimbys, and their viewpoint is called Nimbyism.

Wikipedia proceeds to list 45 examples of projects likely to be opposed, ranging from “bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure” to “storage for weapons of mass destruction.” Conversely, YIMBY seems a bit more tightly defined, referring primarily to support for urbanism.

What’s YIMBYism? Here’s five characteristics, by Matthew Lawler at Congress for the New Urbanism

The Yes in My Back Yard movement pulls from a broad spectrum of people concerned about many aspects of urban places, including affordable housing, mobility, and good urbanism.

Here’s the conclusion of an article about NIMBY and YIMBY in New York City.

Today’s YIMBYs often wear the pro-housing label with pride, while NIMBY is still an epithet, one associated with a mulish, backward-facing outlook. Damon Rich, a partner at the Newark-based urban design firm Hector, recalls picking up another acronym, circa 1998, from Claire Shulman, who was at the time the Queens Borough President: “BANANA,” or “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.”

YIMBY vs. NIMBY often feels like just another culture war, but it shouldn’t be that way. I see it more as a predictable response to a system that forces discussions about the most complex of human creations—the city—into narrow conduits, in which most people affected by a given project come in at the end, when the substantive decisions have already been made. And this dichotomy for and against the building of anything anywhere makes no real sense; not all development is good and not all development is bad. We don’t live in a binary world; most of the development issues we deal with are more like “yes, but” or “no, but.” The problem is that it’s hard to figure out how to express those shades of gray and still be heard.