Parking. Space.


Central park. Hyde park. Phoenix park. Yellowstone park. Children’s play park. Country park.

Can I park here? Is there anywhere to park? You can park outside. Use the underground park. Park and ride. How much to park?

Same word 2 different meanings.
Here’s an example of the 2 words colliding - an homonym in action.


This essentially says no parking in the parking strip.

What’s a parking strip for if not for parking? It’s like saying "No sitting in the sitting room" or "No dining in the dining room"!

So how did abandoning a motor car in a public space come to be known as parking?


It mightn’t surprise you to know that cars not only stole the public space, they stole the word "parking" as well.


The Washington Parking Commission was established in 1871.
That’s right 1871, not 1971. 1871 was roughly 30 years before the first mass produced cars arrived. So what were they parking in Washington? Maybe it was horses?  Maybe wagons and horse drawn carriages? Nope. The Washington Parking Commission were "parking" trees.
“Parkings” were wide strips of ground at each side of the road set aside for planting trees –  a way to connect up the green parks of Washington for its citizens, a way to bring more green, more shade and more nature into the city. The verb “to park” meant "to plant trees".

This explains the image above. In Washington a parking strip still means a 3.5–4.5 metre wide area at the side of a road where trees, flowers and grass are planted and maintained by the adjacent property owner. It’s a park in the true sense of the word. Today, almost half of Washington's 9000 acres of public space are parking strips. And to this day you’re still prohibited from storing your car there.

The Congressional Parking Act was passed in 1870. A revision in 1872 made it an offence to cut down or ‘injure’ any of the trees - a fine of $5–50 could be imposed per offence. In 1873 it also became an offence to trespass on the "parking space" or to have animals (horses) on the parking space. But horses began to be tied to trees and horse drawn carriages stopped under the canopies for shade on sunny days. And then came the cars.

In 1907 there were  2,200 cars in Washington DC. 20 years later there were 112,000, and their owners need space to store them. So the city began chopping trees down to make space. The first recorded “car park” in the USA was in Detroit in 1927. The phrase “car parking” quickly took hold and the word ‘parking’ not so much morphed, but was appropriated.


Not a homonym - but “space” has a multitude of meanings. It describes an area with no buildings. A area between the staves in sheet music. An interval of time. The storage capacity in your laptop. It also describes the area beyond Earth’s atmosphere. If you want to see pictures of the area beyond our atmosphere, there’s no better resource than the Project Apollo Archive on Flickr. Man’s first adventure into Space.

This image appeared in my stream a few weeks back.

A picture of the lunar surface, but some problem with the film/development produced a strange effect on the horizon, reminiscent of a Rothko painting. It leaped out of the otherwise grey stream of images. Part martian part lunar. But zoom in, and you’ll find it’s not the desolate space you might imagine.


There - among the lunar boulders is a car. A car… “parked” in Space. A parking space, on the moon.

And if that weren’t strange enough, in all, there are 3 cars parked on the moon.  There they have remained motionless for 50 years. Parked. Abandoned.  Waiting for their owners to return. And there they shall remain as symbols –  of how, in the 100 years between 1870 and 1970, we regressed. In that brief blink of time we went from parking trees on earth to dumping cars on the Moon.

To start reclaiming the space, we should start by reclaiming the word.