Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Word of the Day -- Bollard

A bollard is a short vertical post. Originally it meant a post used on a ship or a quay, principally for mooring. The word now also describes a variety of structures to control or direct road traffic, such as posts arranged in a line to obstruct the passage of motor vehicles. The term can also be used to describe short, post-like light fixtures.

The term is probably related to bole, meaning a tree trunk. The earliest citation given by the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1844: previously, simpler terms such as "post" appear to have been used. The Norman-French name Boulard (still often found in Normandy) may be related.

From the 17th and 18th centuries, old cannon were often used as bollards on quaysides to help moor ships alongside. The cannons would be buried in the ground muzzle-first to approximately half or two-thirds of their length, leaving the breech (rear end) projecting above the ground for the attachment of ropes. Such cannon can still occasionally be found. Later (19th-century) bollards were often given the same cannon shape.

Wooden posts were used for basic traffic management since the beginning of the 18th century. One of the earliest documented cases is that of the "two oak-posts" set up next to the medieval Eleanor cross at Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, in 1721, at the expense of the Society of Antiquaries of London, "to secure Waltham Cross from injury by Carriages". Similar posts can be seen in many historic paintings and engravings.

In the Netherlands, the Amsterdammertjes of Amsterdam, first erected in the 19th century, became popular symbols of the city, although they are now gradually being removed and replaced with elevated sidewalks.

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