Printable Version
Pronunciation: shên-paik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A road that avoids (shuns) turnpikes or other toll roads; a slower, local route that costs nothing to drive. Today it refers to slower back roads as opposed to high-speed motorways and the like.

Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as a regular verb, shunpikes, shunpiked, shunpiking. If you prefer driving local roads rather than expressways, you are probably a shunpiker—a much better lot than that of a plain piker (stingy person). Generally, the heads of English compounds come last: a houseboat is a kind of boat and a boathouse is a kind of house. The head, which determines what the compound refers to, is at the end. So, even though a shunpike is not a pike, it is a kind of road and not a kind of shunning.

In Play: If you find it nerve-wracking to drive on high-speed expressways and motorways, shunpikes may be just the thing for you: "We thoroughly enjoyed our vacation, driving leisurely along the shunpikes and exploring the villages they ramble through." As opposed to back road, today's Good Word clearly implies that you are avoiding high-speed highways: "No, life in the fast lane doesn't appeal to me; I'm an old shunpiker on the road of life."

Word History: Today's word is not only 'reverse engineered' (see Notes), it comprises a regular word (shun) + a clipping of (turn)pike. Turnpike itself has an interesting history. Turnpikes were originally long poles with spikes placed across roads for the defense of towns. Later the word was used to refer to a turnable pole across the road that would be opened only if the traveler paid a toll. The final stop in this word's semantic journey is where it rests today, referring to a highway requiring a toll for its use. Pike "long pointed pole" is an old Germanic word that has reduplicated itself in many forms: pick, peck, and peak are just a few.

Dr. Goodword,

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