Monday, December 3, 2012

Word of the Week - Park

Estes Park, Colorado, Whyte's Lake by Albert Bierstadt, 1877

Happy December, everyone! I don't know about you, but with small kids in the house, the Christmas spirit has descended around here. Yesterday was spent making salt-dough ornaments, and this coming weekend my little girl will be in The Nutcracker. Gotta love it. =)

For today's Word of the Week, I bring you another one that surprised me in some respects when I, for some reason or another, thought to look it up. Park, as a noun, has been around pretty much forever, at first meaning an enclosed area for hunting. There's some speculation that its root comes from the word for the fencing, rather than the land enclosed. But by the 1600s, it had taken on its now-traditional meaning of a place in a town or city for public recreation.

What got me was the verb. It derived from a particular form of the noun that was reserved for military vehicles, and so became "to arrange military vehicles in a park" in 1812. So late! I kinda thought that as long as there were vehicles, there would be a word for parking them. But apparently it wasn't park for quite a while, LOL. And it didn't get extended to non-military vehicles until 1844.

Not surprisingly, the application to cars is more modern still. As a transmission gear, park made its debut in 1949. (Anyone know what they called it before that? Anyone? I have no clue...) And park-and-ride joined the scene in 1966.

And now that I'm firmly parked in front of my computer, it's time to get back to trimming Whispers from the Shadows. Hope everyone has a lovely week!


  1. Okay - TOTALLY curious what the gear was called before 1949. Great post. Thanks, Roseanna.

    1. You know, it occurs to me that before that, they were probably all clutches, huh? So it would just be neutral to park...

    2. That was my line of thought, too.

      I couldn't quickly find an exact date, but one article says:
      "[T]he GM Hydramatic, which was first introduced in 1939, is generally considered the first successful mass-produced automatic [...] When parking a first-generation Hydramatic-equipped car, drivers would have to shut off the engine and then select reverse in order to lock the transmission; there was no 'park' setting."