Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Having Truck with the word "Truck"

Thomas came up with an interesting question recently. "How old is the word 'truck'? Was it around before the vehicle?"

I knew it must have been, because the word can mean "trade" or "barter". But the question made me wonder exactly how old the word is, and it also made me wonder how the term "truck garden" came about.

So the first thing I did was pull out my OED of Etymology, 1974 edition.


The first and oldest definition of the word is from the 13th century, and that was to "give in exchange". (Apparently the earliest example of this meaning in print was from the Ancrene Riwle)

"Barter", 16th century; "barter away" 17th century, as well as "dealings, traffic"; "payment in kind, good supplied instead of wages" 18th century, and; "pay otherwise than in money", 19 century.


The meaning of this word as a "small solid wooden wheel or block" dates from the 17th century and moved into the 18th century as "wheeled vehicle for heavy weights", possibly as a shortened form of the word "truckle". Truckle came into our language as a "pulley, sheave" or "small roller or wheel under a bed, etc" in the 15th century. As a verb truckle came to mean to "yield obsequiously to" in the 17th century.

The word truck progressed through Middle English trukie, later trukke, to Anglo-Norman truquer, Old French troquer, (reflected, according to the OED, in Medieval Latin trocare). So the word truck has been around since at least the 13th century and has gone through several languages to reach our modern English.

Now, as for truck gardening, the Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition, says it is
the horticultural practice of growing one or more
vegetable crops on a large
scale for shipment to distant markets. . . . At first this type of
farming depended entirely on local or regional markets. As the use of railroads
and large-capacity trucks expanded and refrigerated carriers were introduced,
truck farms spread to the cheaper lands of the West and South, . .
. The major truck-farming areas are in California, Texas, Florida,
along the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and in the Great Lakes area. . . .

That's all well and good, but I already know what a truck garden is. I have not been able to find anything about the origin of the term. I have no idea when it started being used with relation to gardening. My OED fails me there, and so far so has the Internet.

* Other interesting usages of the word "truck" are:
as an intransitive verb, to do trucking or to drive a truck as one's work;
the slang truck on down, which means to stroll or walk in a carefree, leisurely manner;
as a rare form of the intransitive verb, peddle;
as an informal noun, dealings (e.g. have no further truck with them), which is how I used it in the title of this entry;
as an informal noun, trash, rubbish (**e.g. “Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that truck?” --Mark Twain).
from U.S. Military Dictionary, a wooden disk at the top of a ship's mast or flagstaff, with sheaves for signal halyards. **

Now you probably know more about the word "truck" than you ever wanted to know, but wasn't it interesting? I like it when someone asks me a word question that sends me digging into dictionaries and encyclopedias. Hope you got some enjoyment out of it as well.

And all I can say in closing is . . .


* Your Dictionary.com
** Answers.com

Sunday, February 22, 2009

English...whose idea was this, anyway?

A friend sent this to me, and I thought it showed perfectly how strange the English language can be. I've always heard it's one of the hardest languages to learn as a second language, and I can imagine how frustrating it is!

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lost in translation

Irish police were left red-faced in the wake of the hunt for the country's worst driver. He managed to rack up dozens of traffic violations and fines, and forces up and down the Republic were on the hunt for Polish man Prawo Jazdy. Except... Prawo Jazdy is Polish for driver's licence.

Which reminds me of foreign tourists in the Netherlands who are driving for miles, looking for the town of Doorgaand Verkeer. This features on hundreds of signs, particularly in larger towns and cities. Never with a distance indication, something that is quite common in Holland. Doorgaand Verkeer is a Dutch fata morgana,as it stands for Through Traffic.

First published on Atlantic Lines

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Some advertisements on the Internet are just plain stupid. One company, trying to pander its creditcard off on unsuspecting punters can rest assured of an absolutely 0% (yes, zero) success rate. After saying which normally disqualifying criteria will be considered, it says that everyone will be EXCEPTED.

Originally posted on Atlantic Lines