For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration

It is an interesting language that we speak

Thom considers the ongoing use of terms that have become misnomers

I was watching TV a few days ago. In a scene, a guy gets pulled over by a cop, who asks for licence and registration.

“It’s in the glove box,” the guy tells the cop reaching over to the passenger side.

It occurred to me, why do we still call it a glove box (or compartment).

Of course, it makes perfect sense why it was originally. In the earliest days of motor cars, they were no more than modified horse carriages. With the greater speeds available with internal combustion engines, driving gloves and goggles were essential equipment.

Manufacturers would fit the carriages with a compartment, usually a box on the floor, so you wouldn’t have to carry your gloves and goggles with you or leave them out on the seat to be weathered when you stopped and got out at your destination.

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Sure, there are still a few pretentious people who wear a modern version of driving gloves, but honestly, when was the last time anybody used that compartment to store gloves.

Interestingly, in the U.K. (and parts of the northwest U.S., oddly enough) some people even still use the term jockey box, which predates motorized vehicles when carriage or wagon drivers were referred to as jockeys.

When a term is coined, though, the name tends to stick regardless of evolving usage.

I wonder, though, if another moniker might not have had the staying power of glove box. Would we still call it a goggle box, for example?

And what would we call it, if we had modernized it? Registration compartment might make the most sense.

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In Texas, perhaps it would be the handgun compartment.

In my personal case, it would be the junk compartment.

There are of course many examples of older names for things being retained despite being outdated.

We still refer to certain golf clubs as woods even though it has been a long time since they were made out of woods. Irons is also a bit of a misnomer. The heads of those clubs are made of steel these days, which of course is an alloy of iron and carbon.

Phone calls are still ‘dialled,’ but when was the last time anyone even saw a rotary phone. And for that matter, why do we still call our handheld electronic devices phones even though that is only one of myriad functions and usually one of the lesser-used ones at that.

People still say tin foil and tin can even though aluminum supplanted tin more than 70 years ago.

Sometimes misnomers are the result of a company being the first out of the gate with a product: Kleenex for facial tissues, Xerox for photocoping, Aspirin for acetylsalicylic acid.

It is an interesting language that we speak.

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