“Car park”

A letter to the editor to my local weekly newspaper, The [Swarthmore, Pennsylvania] Swarthmorean, starts off this way:

Why is the college not using all the available space on the campus for a new car park?

If the present car park were expanded, it could accommodate many cars.

It was signed “Dorothy Moffett.”

I do not know if Ms. Moffett is British, but I suspect she is, because I have never  encountered an American who uses car park instead of one of our two alternatives, parking lot and parking garage.

But I found that the term at one time has some currency in the U.S.–at least among headline writers, who are always looking for ways to trim words and phrases. A 1953 New York Times headline reads “City Set to Start Metered Car Park.”

The only recent U.S.-datelined use in the Times came in a 2011 style-section piece about the Art Basel Miami Beach festival: “The event was originally scheduled to take place at a mansion on Indian Creek Island but ended up, more conveniently and also more appropriately, at the Herzog & de Meuron car park at 1111 Lincoln Road.”

1111 Lincoln Road
1111 Lincoln Road

And in that case, parking garage is hardly sufficient. Here is how Wikipedia’s description of the seven-story, $65 million Miami Beach facility begins:

The design has been characterized as resembling a house of cards. It is an open-air structure with no exterior walls constructed around buttresses and cantilevers that features floor heights varying from 8 to 34 feet.Some of the internal ramps are quite steep in order to accommodate the wider height intervals. Elevators and a central, winding staircase take drivers to and from their cars.A glassed-in high-fashion boutique sits on an edge of the fifth floor.The parking garage features retail space at the street level, with tenants such as Maxposure Media Group, and is joined to another structure at the same address that serves as an office for SunTrust Banks.[Developer Robert] Wennett has built a penthouse apartment for himself as part of a 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) space on the structure’s roof that also features a pool and gardens with hanging vines.

Now that is a proper car park!

14 thoughts on ““Car park”

  1. Ben:
    When I first came upon “car park,” I thought, “how nice! The Brits compare a parking lot to a park!” Silly me.

  2. I have to admit that “car park” sounds a lot more pleasant that our current U.S. alternatives. Perhaps it will become more prominent as cars get greener in the form of hybrids, electrics, etc.

  3. The phrase “multi-storey car park” was used in Grand Theft Auto 3 from a few years ago. The game is set in Liberty City; a fictional version of New York. The characters involved are all American.

    This brings up another point: story vs. storey. In English English, we maintain the distinction; the second means a floor of a multi-floor building (multi-storey), the first means as in a book, a TV show etc. I personally feel using “story” spelt that way to mean floor is bad form, as it loses the spelt distinction; distinctions are always useful, although in this case there’s unlikely to be confusion. The more distinctions we lose in our fine language, the more the state of English will decline.

    Finally, there’s the issue of people pronouncing words the same in some accents or dialects; marry, merry and Mary being one of the most common examples. For me, marry uses the “cat” vowel, merry uses the “bet” vowel and Mary uses the “air” vowel – which is the same as “bet” but longer. e: instead of e if you like, or whatever it is in phonetics (which I don’t know much about).

  4. My Australian wife refers to a parking lot as a car park and also a space within that car park as a car park. I believe this is normal in Australia.

    @ Matt
    Grand Theft Auto is made by a British company so maybe that is why.

    1. @Pete – it’s certainly normal here in Australia to call any kind of parking lot / parking garage / parking structure a “car park”, but I can’t say I’d use the term for a space within the car park. But that’s just me, of course.

  5. Story and storey also have diffeent plurals: stories and storeys.
    A Car Park is divided into parking spaces or just spaces. Sometimes they are known as parking bays, but that usually suggests that there is a barrier of some kind between each bay.

  6. Just wanted to add that in addition to ‘car park’ British English speakers will also use phrases such as ‘coach park’ or ‘lorry park’ – in other words, specific places to park your coach or your lorry. You see separate areas designated for different types of vehicle at sites such as motorway services or tourist attractions. If you say ‘parking lot’ you’d have to ‘parking lot for coaches’ which is longer. (I can imagine that a ‘coach park’ would conjure up the mental picture of a green space full of sports coaches, to the US mind.)

  7. “parking garage” could be either a “multi-storey car park” or a “basement car park”/”underground car park”.

    OTOH, a “car park” might comprise both an outdoor “parking lot” and an indoor “parking garage” as a single unit: how would Americans describe such a facility?

  8. I once talked to an English friend about his car being left in the parking lot. He instantly corrected me: car park, please!

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