LINGUIST List 5.538

Sat 26 Mar 1994

Sum: Parking

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  1. Alec Marantz, Parking Summary

Message 1: Parking Summary

Date: Thu, 24 Mar 94 16:01:34 ESParking Summary
From: Alec Marantz <marantzMIT.EDU>
Subject: Parking Summary

Summary: Parking Garages vs. Parking Structures

I received many many responses to my query on what to call multi-level
above-ground parking buildings. While certain regional patterns are
very clear from this informal survey, no grand division of the US is
evident. Rather, it seems that the local word for such buildings can
derive from the name attached by the builders of the first one or two in
the area. For example, in Calgary the appropriate term is "parkade,"
not found elsewhere in my survey. This term is apparently the
commercial name of the first such buildings in the area (from Arcade and
Parking, presumably). The use of "parking ramp" in the Minneapolis area
also appears to be originally an official designation.

Aside on sociolinguistic attitudes: Those who haven't been exposed to
"parking structure" in everyday use find it, in the words of Shana
Walton, "adminestrative-ese." On the other hand, some of those for whom
"structure" is the norm find it amusing to use "garage" for these
buildings so obviously an order of magnitude bigger than (one- or
two-car) garages.

So, what's clear?

Rather uniformly, the small building attached to one's house for storing
one's car is called a "garage" (as in "two-car garage").
"Garage" also is the place one takes one's car to be fixed.

In Britain and Australia (although I have only one response from down
under to confirm this), parking garages/structures are called
"multi-stor(e)y car parks." What we in the US would call "parking lots"
(paved areas for parking) are simply "car parks" in these countries.

Calgary has the wonderful "parkades."

In other parts of Canada (well, those east of Calgary -- I haven't heard
anything from the west coast), the British "car park" and the American
"parking garage" are both known.

In Minneapolis and apparently through parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and
Iowa, the buildings are known generally as "parking ramps" or just
"ramps." In some parts of the eastern mid-west, we also find "parking
decks" and I have a "parking deck" report from North Carolina as well.

Ann Arbor and Lansing Michigan, as well as neighboring communities, are
strict "parking structure" places. There's a suggestion that this usage
results from an official designation by the builders or owners of these

Los Angeles and San Francisco and apparently California in general is
strict "parking structure" country as well. Arizona also appears to
have "parking structures."

Oregon appears to have the California usage but recognizes "parking

The rest of the country is mixed. My impression from the responses I
received is that the north-east generally has parking garages, with the
possible exception of Boston. Two respondants from the Boston area (not
me; I'm not a native) report "parking structure" for at least the
buildings that are not completely inclosed. I have an additional
"parking structure" sighting in New Jersey.

The two respondants from central Illinois split with one for "structure"
and one for "garage."

I have a Lexington, Kentucky "parking structure" but scattered "parking
garages" further south.

Thanks to all who responded. Paul Schaffner (
of the Middle English Dictionary project at the University of Michigan -
Ann Arbor provided his own (informal) research on this issue that
included and confirmed most of the information I received separately
from 40-odd informants. He somehow forgot to include the Middle English
usage here.
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