story / floor

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story / floor

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Jul 21, 2004 9:37 am

Why, in America, do some refer to floors of a building as 'stories'? This phenomenon appears to be unique to America, as everywhere else I've been, floors are the preferred nomenclature. Can anyone fill me in?

Perplexed
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How did story get associated with buildings, all the rooms on one floor, or the dividing space between floors?
Submitted by Gary Wallington (Akolele - Australia)
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story / floor

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jul 21, 2004 9:51 am

Dear Perp, Very interesting question, which I’ve never thought about. I guess a good place for you to have begun looking would have been in a dictionary. Also, I don’t think you are right about the use of ‘stories’ being unique to America.
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Random House Unabridged Dictionary

STORY noun 1. a complete horizontal section of a building, having one continuous or practically continuous floor. 2. the set of rooms on the same floor or level of a building. 3. any major horizontal architectural division, as of a façade or the wall of a nave. 4. a layer [1350–1400; Middle English ‘storie’ from Anglo-Latin ‘historia’ picture decorating a building, a part of the building so decorated, hence floor, story from Latin ‘historia’ history]
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Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology

STORY noun: floor of a building. Before 1384, borrowed Anglo-Latin ‘historia’ picture, floor of a building, from Latin ‘historia’ history; perhaps so called because the front of buildings in the Middle Ages often were decorated with rows of painted windows; ‘-story’ is found in early use in the term ‘clerestory’ (1412)
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Word Maven

I've often wondered about this myself but never got around to looking it up. I had assumed that the two distinct meanings of ‘story’ (or ‘storey’ as the British spell the word meaning 'floor of a building') must have derived from separate roots. Not so.

The view that the architectural sense of ‘story’ comes from Old French ‘estorer,’ to build or furnish, is generally discounted because the evidence points in a different direction.

‘Story’ in the sense of 'a narrative' appeared around 1200. It came into English through Old French from Latin ‘historia’ account, tale, story. The ultimate origin is Greek ‘historia’ 'learning or knowing by inquiry,' from the verb ‘historein,’ to inquire, and the noun ‘histor,’ a wise man or judge. The word is related to ‘idein’ to see, and ‘eidenai’ to know. English ‘story’ originally meant 'a historical narrative', but by the 16th century, ‘history’ came to be used for a factual narrative of past events, and ‘story’ meant a fictitious tale: "Sum singis, sum dancis, sum tellis storeis" -- Some sing, some dance, some tell stories (Dunbar, ‘Poems,’ 1500-1520).

So that's all very straightforward, etymologically speaking. But take a look at this quotation from Robert of Gloucester's ‘Chronicle’ in 1400: "Hii begonne her heye tounes strengthy vaste aboute, Her castles & storys...." The reference is to fortifying towns and adding "stories" or upper levels to castle towers.

Records from the 13th and 14th centuries indicate that the Anglo-Norman word ‘historia’ had the meaning of 'a picture' or 'a tier of painted windows or of sculptures'. A 12th century abbot completed "unam istoriam" in the main tower on the west side. In a 1398 history there is mention of "una historia octo fenestrarum" (a historia of eight windows). Think for a moment of a medieval cathedral with rows of stained glass windows all telling "stories" from the Bible.

By the 15th century, the English word "story" had acquired from the Anglo-Latin ‘historia’ the sense of 'each of a number of tiers or rows of columns, windows, etc., placed horizontally above each other'. Various parish records from the 16th century tell of payments made to workmen for jobs like "making a foot of glass in the upper story of the middle aisle" or "trimming four stories of old iron."

‘Story’ also appears in the word ‘clerestory,’ first recorded in 1412. The clerestory is the upper part of the wall of the nave of a large church that rises above adjacent rooftops and has a row of windows that admit daylight to the center of the building. "Clear" is related to the French ‘clai’ and means light.

Although the Romance languages use derivatives of Latin ‘historia’ to mean history or story, the development of the sense to 'something that tells a story' and then to 'the location of something that tells a story' is peculiar to Anglo-Latin and therefore to English. Why? Who? Another fascinating little etymological mystery.
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Ken G - November 20, 2002
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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story / floor

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Jul 21, 2004 10:05 am

Also different in some countries is the numbering of the floors. In the US in most buildings the ground floor is also the 1st floor. In England one flight up is the 1st floor.

John, CA
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:41 am

So an 11-year-old has survived an 11-story fall.
Heck, many autumns have come and gone during which my
children have endured a dozen or more reading-sessions.
Still not getting the e-difference.
What? Did theye runne out of Es heere?: "Hii begonne her heye tounes strengthy vaste aboute, Her castles & storys...."
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story / floor

Post by dalehileman » Sun Jul 09, 2006 2:51 pm

Perp: At least in leftpond, "story" also means a 10 ft increment of height
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story / floor

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jul 09, 2006 4:09 pm

Perp
Merriam Webster:
1 perpetuator af a crime
2 perpendicular
??
maybe "perpetuator of a thread"?
I had just always thought it was "storey".
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story / floor

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Jul 09, 2006 4:17 pm

Dale, Your 10 feet for a STORY is not generally true. It may be some kind of average or in a local ordnance somewhere, perhaps for private homes (where did you get that figure?), but it certainly doesn’t seem to apply to tall office buildings. In the posting skyscraper the magazine The Week stated the following:
<2006 “The standard height of a STORY has grown in recent decades from 12–13 feet to 13–14 feet, due to the enormous amount of wiring, ductwork, and other infrastructure built into each floor.”—‘The Week,’ 6 June>
Ken – July 9, 2006
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story / floor

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Jul 09, 2006 4:35 pm

James, There is also PERPLEXED and PERPETUAL. Or it could be an acronym for Person Eager to Reply to Post. But alas, I just noticed that it is Perplexed – the person who originally asked the question back in 2002 (go to top of post) who Dale assumes is still of this world, or at least, still of this site.(<:)
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Ken G – July 9, 2006 [[fomerly in a time warp in July 10!]]
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story / floor

Post by dalehileman » Sun Jul 09, 2006 7:57 pm

Ken: The 1 story = 10 ft convention is perpeuated by the media, who find it easy to divide by 10 but not 12 or 14. Google "2 stories 20 ft", "3 stories 30 ft" etc
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story / floor

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jul 09, 2006 8:08 pm

media perps!
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Post by aka_darrell » Mon Jul 10, 2006 2:50 pm

Dale, I to have noticed on TV they often relate a height to the number of stories in building and calculating backward one arrives at 1 story = 10 ft. Channels like The Discovery Channel and The History Channel that are, may I say, 'quasi-educational' do this a lot. BTW, people on these channels often relate horizontal distances and areas to 'football fields'.

Newscasters do this sometimes too. Yesterday there was a report of a car that crashed off a 100 foot cliff which was equated to a 10 story building.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:21 pm

I use a "story-stick" which is a thin lath with knife-cuts at each important point along the height, width, and depth of the piece of furniture to be built, making unnecessary the repeated measuring and marking between cutting-list and stock.
Of course, the meaning is connected to the above. Any records of first use of the term in this sense?
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Post by Bobinwales » Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:38 pm

As was said earlier, we spell it “storey” in the UK, but there seems to be an argument about the plural, it would appear that “stories” is perfectly acceptable, as is “storeys”. But I always think that the plural of “trolley” should be “trollies”, not “trolleys”, so who am I to query it?
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story / floor

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon Jul 10, 2006 4:20 pm

Well, Bob, I finally broke down and looked it up, in my huge old Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, and found that, no, the US spelling is story, the British is storey, and the British plural is storeys.
Thee Ende
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:19 pm

A story/storey is not a standard unit of measurement, and should not be treated as such. Uncertainty arises when, to borrow Gdwdwrkr's example, a lazy journalist writes that a child has survived an 11-storey fall instead of taking the trouble to do some research and report that the child has survived a 120-foot fall.

While it often is necessary to think in terms of the number of storeys, such as when a company is calculating how many storeys it will need to occupy while it is planning a move into new high-rise office accommodation, in many other situations it is far more meaningful to quantify the distance in terms of feet or metres.

Other examples of inappropriate units of measurement are the habit of British DIY stores or building regulations of quoting the dimensions of building materials (e.g. timber), or mandatory distances or spacings, in terms of millimetres instead of centimetres. Equally ridiculous is the practice of quoting statistics such as annual beef export figures in pounds instead of tons, or the yearly output of a goldmine, which might be 20 tons, in ounces: both are commonplace in the USA. When we are buying beef or gold as retail customers these units are useful, but when we are talking about 12,000 tons of beef it is crazy to state the amount as 27,000,000 pounds. It's as if consumers are seriously being invited to contemplate the prospect of accommodating all that meat in their own freezers.
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