Turnpike

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Dr. Goodword
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Turnpike

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:55 pm

• turnpike •


Pronunciation: têrn-paik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A barrier across a road preventing certain types of traffic or to collect tolls. 2. (Eastern US) An expressway on which tolls are collected.

Notes: Today's Good Word is rarely used in the English-speaking world except in the eastern United States. Ah, the open road.The original turnpike, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, is still in use today. It has been joined by turnpikes in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. Turnpikes are usually distinguished from other expressways by controlled access, emergency call boxes, and service plazas with gas stations and restaurants. This word is shortened in US slang to simply pike and the future is often what is "coming down the pike".
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In Play: Today's word is resistant to figurative use—it means what it means and nothing else: "Helen got lost looking for the turnpike and could have gotten to the meeting faster had she driven there over back roads." Turnpikes are just a special kind of road with pretty much identical service plazas: "When William Arami saw June McBride sitting in a cafe at a turnpike service plaza, he fell head over heels in love with her."

Word History: The origin of today's word was a pike (a long pointed weapon) placed in a roadway that could be turned to allow friendly visitors to pass but left in place for unfriendly ones. The word next came to refer to any horizontal crossbeam turning on a vertical pinion, originally designed to repel horse traffic but allow foot traffic. This sense of the word has been replaced by turnstile. The original meaning of turnpike persisted, though, and came to mean a barrier that stopped traffic in order to collect a toll from drivers. From there it came to refer to roads with toll barriers themselves. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world such roads are called simply toll roads. In the Eastern US though today's Good Word was revived during the building of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (1937-1956), then passed on to other states as they built their own. (Thank you, Susan Champlin, lover of the open turnpike, for suggesting today's historically interesting Good Word.)
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David Myer
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Re: Turnpike

Postby David Myer » Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:21 am

We discussed Shunpike some years ago when it was the word of the day.

It moved me to suggest Shun for Word of the Day. This is what I wrote in my suggestion, and some of it may be of relevance to turnpike, particularly the link to Cowper's poem:

Searching the Agora, I find we enjoyed Shunpike some years ago - and most interesting to catch up with that one. It appears to be specifically American. I have never heard the word used in England or Australia, even though the concept of a turnpike was well established in UK many centuries ago. Readers who are not familiar with it would surely enjoy William Cowper's delightful verse The Diverting History of John Gilpin ( https://www.gutenberg.org/files/11979/1 ... 1979-h.htm ) written in 1782.

But in the Good Doctor's analysis of Shunpike, no mention is made of the origin of Shun. A little research on the internet reveals little, although one entry suggests it comes from the Old English 'Scunian'. That may be, but instinct suggests the word is related to shy, as in to shy away. Is it then not a participle or similar of 'shy'? And that raises the question of a coconut shy (shie) which is all about throwing, and what connection that has with shying away or simply being shy.

George Kovac
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Re: Turnpike

Postby George Kovac » Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:55 am

The Diverting History of John Gilpin is indeed charming reading, and the illustrations are delightful. You'll need to click to the website generally, and then search inside the website for that story--the detailed direct link to the story resulted in an error code on my computer.

As to David's musing on "shun"... While I can shed no light on the word's origin, I note that, at least in American culture, "shunning," IMHO (in my hubristic opinion) was often associated with the Amish practice of publicly marginalizing apostates, a trope in movies and stories. While shunning by religious groups is hardly confined to the Amish, I think its cultural fascination arises from its dissonance with the stereotype of the Amish as otherwise charming, gentle, tolerant, peaceful folk--a rich conflict for narrative exploration and the examination of larger themes: how can someone so kind be so cruel? That is a theme that resonates throughout millennia of literature.

Regrettably, the general concept of "shunning" has been legitimized of late, though it is rebranded as bullying, or worse. IMHO (in my horrified opinion) the enumeration of "the others who must be shunned" has been expanded and justified (even glorified) in the public square. In its current form, this kind of shunning lacks any of the ambivalence to warrant edifying narrative exploration: the current champions of this cruelty, unlike the gentle Amish, are uncomplicated by any baseline of kindness. The proponents of this intolerance want to establish political and cultural turnstiles through which to expel all the undesirable "others"--turnstiles that will not permit re-admittance.
"The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words." Colum McCann, But Always Meeting Ourselves, NYT 6/15/09

Philip Hudson
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Re: Turnpike

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Oct 24, 2020 3:52 am

I am glad to see others who like Cowper's poem about John Gilpin.
I have loved it for many years. Cowper is otherwise known for writing hymns, for his piety, and for his shaky hold onto reality. I can empathize with Cowper since I have dealt with Asperger's Syndrome and depression all of my life, topped off with a debilitating stroke in my 40s. I am now in my 80's and I am almost normal, I think.
The word turnstile is new to me although the actual item is not. I find the name a little confusing. I know a stile as a little stairway over a fence. The words pike and peak, brothers as they are, have meanings culminating in Pike's Peak in Colorado.
I am tempted to discuss shunning but will suppress the urge for the moment.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.


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