|David Cameron and his house in 'leafy' Holland Park|
But that's all just preamble for this tweet from Tony Thorne:
Sounded right to me, but I had a quick look.Yesterday's freighted word: 'David Cameron moves into house in *leafy* Holland Park'. Only UK usage I think?— Tony Thorne (@tonythorne007) 15 July 2016
My first question was: Which things are described as leafy in AmE and BrE? This result from GloWBE shows us just nouns after leafy for which there are sufficient numbers for some statistical analysis.
My second question was, if Americans don't say leafy suburb, what do they say?
The software isn't searching for meanings, it's just searching for any adjectives right before suburb. As it happens it's given us some near-synonyms, for leafy in BrE is code for 'affluent'. Tony clarifies:
@lynneguist BrE usually unpacks into 'very expensive', 'serene/untroubled' as well as 'blessed with trees', never applies to poorer suburbs.— Tony Thorne (@tonythorne007) 15 July 2016
It works as code better in the UK than in the US for geographical reasons. The UK has far fewer trees than the US, and the way cities are built means that there are few trees within them. In the US, the poor neighbo(u)rhoods in a medium-sized city may well have trees (of course denser cities have fewer). I live in a nice part of town in Brighton and our street/road has almost no trees. And of course, no lawns. And little in the way of (BrE) front gardens/(AmE) front yards. (It would have had a few more trees in the past, but Brighton lost many to the Great Storm of 1987 and to Dutch Elm disease.)
The numbers for leafy suburb in the US are not zero, as Julie Lawson notes:
I noted in reply that the Washington Post is a hotbed of Britishisms. (It's been coming up a lot as I do the research for my book.) None of the six in the GloWBE corpus are from the Post but at least three are from DC-area writers/sources, so it may be fairly local to the area..@lynneguist @tonythorne007 the Washington Post uses it so regularly to describe upscale DC neighborhoods that it's become a joke— Julie Lawson (@srfrjulie) 15 July 2016
The semantics of suburb are not quite the same in the US and UK. (But I'm going to have to leave that for another day.) I've just shown suburb in the table above because if you search for suburb* with a wild-card at the end, you get suburban and suburbanite and it all gets a bit messy. But if we look at the plural alone, we're informed a bit more about American society...
*Interesting side note: say-so has been around since the 1600s, but OED says "In 19th cent., chiefly U.S. and Eng. regional (midl.)." It now seems to be general English again.