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Words and Sayings

Driveways and Parkways
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

Question 1:
Why is a park called a park when you can't park there?

Because the term park as in "park a car" is not the root meaning of the word -- it is a special narrow meaning. The term park means an enclosure, an enclosed place. So the base meaning is a place that is closed off for some special purpose, like an animal game park or a park for people to walk, play or exercise.

This was applied to a vehicle when they were developed in the idea of putting a car in its place, its enclosure, like the car port or garage. Thus parks in general are not places to put cars, they are places to enclose for a particular use. Buts car parks definitely are places for putting cars, because they are marked off and enclosed for that limited purpose, as any park is designated for its particular purpose.

Question 2:
Why do you park on a driveway, and drive on a parkway?

The usages are extended from the base meanings of the words, and are consistent with these meanings.

A "park" is a place set aside for a specific purpose.

The English word way is the equivalent of the Latin word via, meaning "road" or "path." Thus a "parkway" is a road (way) through a park. The road is used by cars, thus you can drive on a parkway, that is you can drive on the road (way) through the park.

The term driveway originated as the designation for the place you drive you car into at the house, like from the gate of the farm, or estate, to the house. When you got to the end of the driveway, you would park the car. ("Park," as in the meaning described above, because you are putting the car in the place designated for the car, that is the car park.)

The term driveway was thus established and continued to be used, even when people with tract houses had only a short "way" to drive to the house, so the place where you drive the car into by any house is called a driveway.

It is still consistent with the base meaning and broader usage of the term in that you "drive" into and onto the "way" designated for the car for that dwelling.

Written 27 November 2000 and 30 April 2001 on WHQuestion
Posted 1 June 2001

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD

Copyright © 2001 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.
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