Cars & Vehicles
Word Play, Puns, and Oxymorons
George Carlin

Why do we park in the driveway and drive on the parkway?

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03/29/2012

Why you Drive on a Parkway

This idea dates back before the time of the interstate system to the time of the great depression. In 1931, there was a WPA (Works Project Administration) project called Skyline Drive in the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This was a 105 mile road through the national park which provided a panoramic view of the park. Completed in 1939, it was thought that all long stretches of roads would run though parks to the point where long roads were deemed "parkways".

Driveway and Parkway

From what I understand, 'way' means 'road'. So a driveway is a road that you drive on, typically either to the street or your garage. A parkway is a road through or to a park. Usually parkways are landscaped, or beautified, with medians or trees along the edges.

Park comes from an old word (parc I think) meaning something enclosed. Generally fancy landscaped areas in the old days were enclosed to keep the riff-raff out, and started being called parks....the name stuck. The military enclosed the places they stored their vehicles (wagons and such, up to modern stuff) and called them 'parks' as well. They began referring to storing their vehicles as 'parking' them. The term started applying to any vehicle sometime around just after the war of 1812 and gained popularity into WW2, and stuck. It just lost the meaning of 'enclosed'. When so many military veterans continued using the phrase when they became civilians, it became standard.

Driveways and Parkways

This question is not as random as you think. Driveways were initially much longer, leading from the road back to the main house on the property. So initially people really did drive on them. The word parkway was used to describe a well developed thoroughfare, complete with trees, grassy divided medians and other landscaping, thus the "park" in the name.

Here are more opinions and answers from other WikiAnswers Contributors:

  • I think this is a linguistic quirk incorporated into contemporary English as a direct result of an old George Carlin skit. But, I could be wrong.
  • Partly because English is one of the most free-for-all languages in the world, with fewer rules and more borrowed words than just about any other tongue. Besides the driveway conundrum: 1) The plural of foot is feet, but the plural of boot is boots (beet??), 2) A vegetable farmer is a person whose job is to produce produce, 3) Your nose can run and your feet can smell, 4) "In action" and "inaction" are opposites, 5) You can be overwhelmed, but not whelmed, 6) "Plague" has one syllable but "ague" has two, 7) "ghoti" can be pronounced "fish" (see George Bernard Shaw), 8) "ough" has at least five different pronunciations, 9) its, hers, yours, ours, whose, and theirs are the only possessives that do NOT take apostrophes and on and on and on.