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July 03, 2010


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The definitions in the US are very different.

A city is a self-governing unit, with an elected city council and mayor (under varying names). To become a city is to throw off the yoke of county government. A city has its own police department and gets a share of locally collected taxes.

A county is also self-governing, with an elected board of supervisors, but many counties include a lot of rural land, making law enforcement difficult and politics touchy.

San Francisco is, to my knowledge, unique, in that the county and city have the same boundaries. So they have a combined city/county government.

A town can be almost anything from a substantial suburb to a store and post office on the side of a country road. (Okay, there are probably some houses around...somewhere.) "Community" is more or less synonymous with "town."

Nothing is called a village outside of tourist literature. If it's small, old-fashioned and tourists like it (think Mendocino), the travel writers will call it a village. The people who live there will still call it a town.

Virtual Linguist

Thank you, Julie. That's very interesting. I forgot to mention our counties. We have those, too; for example the county council is responsible for schools and social services in my area, but it's the town council which is responsible for rubbish (garbage) collection and other services.


We have city services (usually including police, water and garbage pickup), and county services (generally including the courthouse and public health clinics.). But schools are run by independent school districts, fire departments may also have separate districts, and there may be separate water and sewer districts, depending on the location. In Sacramento, we also have a utility district that provides electricity, although that's rather unusual.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks Julie. It's all quite different over here by the sound of it. Thanks for the information.

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