On the Origin of Traffic

car_in_trafficWhen you are stuck in traffic, have you ever felt like the fates are manhandling your emotions? There may be a good reason for that.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of the word “traffic” is a bit of a mystery. But one possible source, and the one that I’m going to believe simply because it feels true, is the Vulgar Latin “transfricare”. To break that down, “trans” means across and “fricare” means to rub (also where we get the word “friction”). The idea being of something rubbing across something else, or literally being handled roughly.

I like this because if you’ve ever driven downtown in an unfamiliar city, there is no more apt way to put how if feels than “handled roughly”.

There are other possible (and honestly more likely) origins for traffic. The word may have come to us from the Arabic word “tafriq” which means distribution. But what kind of fun is that?

So the next time you are sitting in traffic, getting annoyed by the closeness of the cars hemming you in, just think about the rough origin of the word. Maybe you could pretend that instead of getting manhandled, your emotions are just experiencing the touch of inexperienced masseuse. Let the rough handling work for you and release your tension with the sound of a car horn.

After all, honking your horn in busy traffic may not move the cars around you and faster, but it should allow you some tension release.

Drive safe out there!

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