chicane

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chicane

Post by incarnatus est » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:38 pm

I read the word "chicane" in an English memoir. It was used to refer to the island around which bumper cars race. Subsequently I learned that it's also a term used in auto traffic engineering -- an island inserted in traffic to slow it down. Fine and dandy.

Curious, I tried to see its relation to "chicanery" but can not find anything that makes me feel the "island" use (chicane) derives in any logical way from chicanery.

Any light you may shed would help unfuddle my befuddled mind.


Hugh Gilmore
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Re: chicane

Post by trolley » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:06 pm

I can imagine a connection with that section of track being "tricky" or "deceiving". I hadn't realized that a chicane referred to a traffic island. We use it around here to mean a zig-zagged section of the road, also known as an "s-turn". A sharp right curve immediately followed by a sharp left curve (without a straight stretch in between) is called a chicane.
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Re: chicane

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:05 am

aaa
Hugh, A CHICANE is an obstacle of some sort used to slow down traffic (auto, racecars, pedestrian, etc). It can take the form of a speed bump, a speed trough, wiggles in the road, etc. See here.

The words ‘traffic calming’ are sometimes used to describe the job of a chicane. The following is a quote from a lengthy article on traffic slowing devices titled “Traffic Calming Policy and Performance: The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.”
<1991 . . . a chicane designed to accommodate four-wheel vehicles is less likely to slow a two-wheeler . . .”—The Town Planning Review, Vol. 62, No. 1, January, page 95>
No dictionary I checked (including the OED) discussed the traffic chicane. However, I think I see a possible connection to chicanery

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY

CHICANE

1) intransitive verb: To resort to tricks or subterfuges; use chicanery.

2) transitive verb: To trick; deceive

3) noun: chicanery
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Maybe the traffic chicane is seen as a device that is a ‘trick’ to slow down traffic. Trick, of course, isn’t precisely the optimum word here, but a traffic manager may perhaps think of it that way.

Well, that’s my best shot!
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Ken – February 10, 2012
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Re: chicane

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:11 am

aaa
Whoops! I posted without seeing John's (trolley's) response and I have essentially just repeated what he said.
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Ken – February 10, 2012
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Re: chicane

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:49 pm

.. Ken and trolley I think that the accent here shouldn't be on the trick but rather on the delay that arises from whatever device is used .. consider the following >>
Websters 1828
CHICANE, n.

1. In law, shift; turn; trick; cavil; an abuse of judiciary proceedings, by artifices, unfair practices, or idle objections, which tend to perplex a cause, puzzle the judge, or impose on a party, and thus to delay or pervert justice.
2. In disputes, sophistry; distinctions and subtleties, that tend to perplex the question and obscure the truth.
3. Any artifice or stratagem.
.. if we translate this idea to the chicane as slowing device we can see that the twists in the road, addition of fences or traffic islands are the stratagems and artifices put in place to puzzle the driver, cyclist, pedestrian and thus cause a delay ..

.. what thinkest thou ??

WoZ whose life is a chicane
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Re: chicane

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:06 pm

Wiktionary says that the speed-reduction element is a usual but not a necessary consideration:

chicane (plural chicanes)

(road transport) A temporary barrier, or serpentine curve, on a vehicular path, especially one designed to reduce speed.

Their use on bob-sleigh runs would seem to be in order to increase complexity rather than reduce speed per se.

The etymology (chicanery came first) is trickery- rather than speed-reduction- related.
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Re: chicane

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:30 pm

aaa
Wiz, Although ‘delay’ makes sense as far as slowing down traffic goes, the problem I’m having with it is that no other dictionary I could find, old or new, seems to include that word or a synonym. I would tend to classify that definition, or at least the use of that particular word, as obsolete. And it seems strange to me that there would be a need to hark back to a 1828 dictionary and pluck out that particular word for a modern definition. So, I would be inclined to say that chicane is a 20th century word that got its start in motor racing and derives from the sense of 'trickery.'

It is also informative to note that in its 1913 revised edition Webster’s did not include the word ‘delay.’

WEBSTER’S UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY (1913 EDITION)

CHICANE: The use of artful subterfuge, designed to draw away attention from the merits of a case or question; -- specifically applied to legal proceedings; trickery; chicanery; caviling; sophistry.
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EREFERENCE.COM

CHICANE: motor racing a short section of sharp narrow bends formed by barriers placed on a motor-racing circuit to provide an additional test of driving skill.

Word Origin & History: In various senses, "obstacles on a roadway" (20c.)
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DOUBLE-TONGUED DICTIONARY (see here).

CHICANE: A barricaded, tightly curved, or zig-zagged roadway that forces traffic to slow while still permitting it to pass; the series of structures which form such a roadway.

Here are some of the quotes D-TD provided with 1956 being the earliest. A word in quotes often indicates a ‘new’ word, but it could also here be indicating an ‘obscure’ one:
<1956 “They will spend Saturday, Aug. 18, practicing on the course, which will have the usual ‘chicane’ and the usual quota of sharp turns.”—New York Times, 10 August, page 14>

<1984 “A maze-like series of four concrete barriers known as a chicane was constructed at the head of the street where the building was located. The suicide van managed to get through that series of barriers.”—Washington Post, 22 September>

<2004 “Chicane: A series of curving curb extensions that alternate from one side of the road to the other.”—Centre Daily (State College, Pennsylvania), 24 May>
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Ken – February 11, 2012
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Re: chicane

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:31 am

.. I can't see how a safety device that is designed to reduce speed and thus reduce risk of injury could be conceived as a kind of trick .. the idea of the barriers is for them to be very obvious so that drivers, pedestrians or cyclists, or whoever, will see the construction and slow down .. no-body is trying to trick anybody .. in my eyes a trick would be counter productive and work to increase the risk ..

WoZ in the S-bend
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Re: chicane

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Feb 12, 2012 6:11 pm

aaa
Wiz,

OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

CHICANE Motor Racing. A disguised or artificial construction, especiallly a barricaded ramp. Also attributive.

Hmm! a DISGUISE – TRICK; DISGUISE – DELAY; DISGUISE – DELAYED; DISGUISE DELAYING; DISGUISE – DELAYS (<:)
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Ken – February 12, 2012
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chicane & Hamlet

Post by incarnatus est » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:43 am

I enjoyed the responses to my question about the relationship between "chicane" and "chicanery."

To the notion of chicanery reflecting tricks/deflections in a court of law:

I remembered in Hamlet, that among his complaints was "the law's delay."

A chicane is a delay. Chicanery is legal delayment.

Perhaps the answer lies in that connection.

Thanks agin for the thoughtful responses.

Hugh Gilmore
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Re: chicane

Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:05 am

.. Ken it is generally agreed that chicane has a French origin .. I have a snippet that you may be able to find more about that may lead to us finding out that chicane and chicanery although looking the same actually have different etymologies .. (Note: If I was really clever I would give an example from english here where two words look the same but emerge from different roots .. damn!!) .. anyway I found this morsel on another linguistic site >>
As a physical arrangement to slow progress, I have a military use from 1771, "chicane de foss " = zig-zag ditches.
WoZ zagging & zigging
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Re: chicane

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:32 am

My Collins Robert French-English Dictionary defines the French noun chicane as

a) a zigzag
b) a legal objection or quibble; a petty quarrel.

Une chicane de fosses means literally 'a zigzag of ditches' in English.

The French verb chicaner is defined variously by Collins Robert as 'to quibble', 'to haggle', 'to squabble'; the noun chicanerie means 'wrangling', 'petty quarrelling', 'quibbling'.

(Similar connotations are also found in the Danish loan-verb from French, chikanere, which can mean either 'to spite' or 'to harass'. The related noun chikane likewise means 'spite', 'harassment', 'malice'.)

The underlying common concept thus centres on the notion of intentional frustration or the creation of obstacles.

The online Merriam-Webster (m-w.com) gives the origin of 'chicane' as "the French chicaner, from Middle French, to quibble, prevent justice. First known use: circa 1672". The same source gives the first known date for 'chicanery' as 1609.

According to the online Compact Oxford English Dictionary, both 'chicane' and 'chicanery' both derive from the root indicated by Merriam-Webster. The COED also provides a precise definition for the motor racing-related sense of 'chicane', namely "a sharp double bend created to form an obstacle on a motor-racing track or a road".
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Re: chicane

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:11 pm

Perverting the course ...
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