• parkour •
pahr-kur • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: Free running; running through an urban area performing gymnastic maneuvers to get past obstacles.
Notes: This is a new word little known because so few people have the opportunity to use it. Other than the videos on YouTube, which many people have watched, few can emulate the antics portrayed in them. A person who can is called a traceur or parkourist.
In Play: Parkour is definitely for the well-trained young: "Don't go jumping over any fences today, dad; you're too old for parkour." Remember that this word can be—as Calvin of the "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoon strip once put it—'verbed': "Jason Rainbows was parkouring yesterday when he missed a leap from one building to another." Don't worry: Jason caught onto a gutter, which broke away from the roof and slowly lowered him to the ground.
Word History: Parkour developed in the 80s in Paris when a sneaker-clad teenage Parisian named David Belle began navigating public spaces, using obstacles as springboards and catapults. The name comes from French parcours "circuit, course, race", comprising par "through" + cours "course". This word goes back to Old French cors "a run, running, flow" from Latin cursus "a running, course, journey", from past participle of currere "to run". The root of this word appears widely in English, beginning with course itself. But we see it also in current, corridor (apparently running was once allowed), carriage, car, and curriculum, of course, a course of courses. Carpenter belongs among these. It comes from a Latin phrase carpentarius artifex "maker of carriages", from carpentum, a two-wheeled carriage. (Paul Chalfant, pankourist or not, successfully brought today's new Good Word to our attention.)
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