Saturday, March 18, 2006

I can't say it with a straight face

About ten years ago I was watching George Carlin on TV joking about the questionable term cockpit.
Ever since then I've wondered, why IS it called that?

Tonight I finally looked it up:


The original sense of this term was a pit for fighting cocks. This sense appears around 1587. In 1599, Shakespeare used the term in Henry V to refer to the theater and specifically the area around the stage. The theatrical reference was his invention, obviously playing on the idea of a cockfight being a performance.

The nautical sense arose about 1700. It was not an open area, but rather a compartment below decks. Normally, it would be the sleeping quarters for junior officers, but in battle would be the hospital. This sense appears unrelated to the theatrical sense, and may have been chosen because junior officers lorded over the sailors like roosters or because of a physical resemblance to the space where chickens were kept. The nautical sense transferred to airplanes around 1914 and to cars in the mid-1930s.

I can't imagine why airlines insist on changing it's name to "flight deck."