Terminate with extreme prejudice.
Just a few of the neologisms and new phrases which have seeped into our daily vocabulary and the collective consciousness. The words we use control how we see the world and alters our behaviour to the people living in it. Some phrases restyle the world for the better, others terms sanitise and mask appalling actions.
Language matters. I am mirroring the esteemed Ben Reeves Lewis, who has mooted changing the names of those who own and manage property they have inherited, or bought to let out to tenants (aka landlords and landladies.)
Say the word landlord and what’s the first image to appear in your mind’s eye? A wry man with a handlebar moustache serving real ale? Or a Rigsby-stile Rachmanite who wallows in your discomfort at insecurity, damp and disrepair?
Landlord is a term loaded with baggage and preconceptions. A landlord sounds privileged – even aristocratic. No wonder many feel they are the actual rulers of their estate (ie our home). The name gives pretensions of grandeur: might be why some owners imagine that inspecting a flat once a month with just one days notice is an absolute right. Some imagine they can turn up whenever they want to. ‘It’s my property – I can do whatever I want’ being the usual excuse.
Or take landlady – a word weighed down by notions of east-end pubs, and doughty woman of uncertain age who can pull a pint with one hand and free-style wrestle troublemakers to the ground with the other. It does not suggest besuited professionals who have invested in several homes while gently accruing equity wealth, managing several homes and rallying recalcitrant contractors.
Ownership is about power, and the power relation between landlord and tenant is complex and fraught. Landlords seem, by all they do, to require constant reassurance that they can reclaim their property whenever they want to. Tenants, meanwhile, want to stay. That little ‘…lord’ makes the situation seem ever more complicated, but tenants should feel no more beholden to their landlord than shoppers do the manager of their local supermarket.
This is a world where some Rentiers (to steal wholesale Ben’s suggestion) certainly don’t hold with this ‘call me Dave’ mentality, and can insist on proper titles (usually Mr, although Sir is declining…along with your Landlordship) that’s if we ever find out the real names of these enigmatic overlords. Landlords are mysterious. We are shielded from them. Letting agents are increasingly hiding owners by assuming their identity on the rental agreement. Research is necessary to ascertain who actually owns the building, while being paid for our right to occupy the space.
But I quite like rentier - Ben Reeves-Lewis’ solution, although my own (kind, fair and responsible) landlady has the last word on this point, and recently emailed to say:
‘I've been thinking. I hate the term landlord (I don't have a wiener), and landlady makes me sound doubled up and old and smelly. So my new title, given my love of all things retro and 40/50s, shall be Landgirl !!!! Plus, that makes me sound all headscarfed and pro-active. That is all :-)’
She wants to be called Landgirl and I would never dare argue. So Landgirl it is then.