But Seriously: Why Do We Drive on Parkways and Park on Driveways?

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“Hey! How come we drive on parkways and park on driveways? Huh? Huh? Amiright?!”

Good grief. This rusty one-liner’s gotten plenty of mileage, but few realize that the question is actually answerable.

The words “drive” and “park” existed long before automobiles. Remember, whenever you write or speak, you’re voting with your vocabulary. Languages evolve over time and a given term’s meaning is subject to dramatically change based on the whim of its users.

Back in the 1800s, for example, “parking” meant planting trees, flowers, and other bits of vegetation. A “parking place,” therefore, had nothing to do with stationary vehicles. Instead, it was a location specifically designed to encourage diverse, extensive plant growth for non-agricultural purposes.

Yet, many were soon commandeered for an entirely different objective. Historian Kirk Savagewrites, “By the turn of the century, such parking areas were sometimes used to hold horse-drawn carriages on special occasions...When automobiles started to overrun cities in the early twentieth century, parking areas were given over to car storage and the word began to refer to the cars themselves rather than the trees and grass they were replacing.”

During this transitional period, America’s parkways also began taking shape. Metropolitan reformers—who feared the health costs of industrial growth—started establishing wooded parks within cities nationwide, hoping their trees would make urban air more breathable. As automobiles rose in popularity, special car-friendly routes were carved through such parks. Unimaginatively, these were named “parkways”.

So parkways have nothing to do with the actual parking of vehicles. But what about “driveways”? Well, that particular word’s been around since at least 1884 and has essentially meant the same thing ever since—namely, a path that connects somebody’s private property to a public road. However, while lengthy driveways were once the norm (and, hence, enabled more driving), today’s average specimen is little more than a dinky personal parking station.

What is a Polar Vortex?

Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’ve turned on the news or stepped outside lately, you're familiar with the record-breaking cold that is blanketing a lot of North America. According to The Washington Post, a mass of bone-chilling air over Canada—a polar vortex—split into three parts at the beginning of 2019, and one is making its way to the eastern U.S. Polar vortexes can push frigid air straight from the arctic tundra into more temperate regions. But just what is this weather phenomenon?

How does a polar vortex form?

Polar vortexes are basically arctic hurricanes or cyclones. NASA defines them as “a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.” A winter phenomenon, vortexes develop as the sun sets over the pole and temperatures cool, and occur in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere (roughly, between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface).

Where will a polar vortex hit?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the vortexes move in a counterclockwise direction. Typically, they dip down over Canada, but according to NBC News, polar vortexes can move into the contiguous U.S. due to warm weather over Greenland or Alaska—which forces denser cold air south—or other weather patterns.

Polar vortexes aren't rare—in fact, arctic winds do sometimes dip down into the eastern U.S.—but sometimes the sheer size of the area affected is much greater than normal.

How cold is a polar vortex?

So cold that frozen sharks have been known to wash up on Cape Cod beaches. So cold that animal keepers at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada once decided to bring its group of king penguins indoors for warmth (the species lives on islands north of Antarctica and the birds aren't used to extreme cold.) Even parts of Alabama and other regions in the Deep South have seen single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero.

But thankfully, this type of arctic freeze doesn't stick around forever: Temperatures will gradually warm up.

In What Field Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Doctor?

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. He’d previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary. His dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” examined the two religious philosophers’ views of God in comparison to each other, and to King’s own concept of a "knowable and personal" God.

Some three decades after he earned his doctorate, in 1989, archivists working with The Martin Luther King Papers Project discovered that King’s dissertation suffered from what they called a “problematic use of sources.” King, they learned, had taken a large amount of material verbatim from other scholars and sources and used it in his work without full or proper attribution, and sometimes no attribution at all.

In 1991, a Boston University investigatory committee concluded that King had indeed plagiarized parts of his dissertation, but found that it was “impractical to reach, on the available evidence, any conclusions about Dr. King's reasons for failing to attribute some, but not all, of his sources.” That is, it could have been anything from malicious intent to simple forgetfulness—no one can determine for sure today. They did not recommend a posthumous revocation of his degree, but instead suggested that a letter be attached to the dissertation in the university library noting the passages lacked quotations and citations.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This article was originally published in 2013.

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