Airport business

« previous post | next post »

I always thought I knew what people meant when they say they're on "airport business"–like buying an airline ticket, dropping off or meeting someone, or flying somewhere themselves. But leave it to resourceful suburban Washington DC area commuters to add new meaning to this word. This Washington Post article describes the lexicographical advances they've caused recently.

Driving to Dulles Airport is no fun, even when you use the toll-free road that most people take to and from the terminal. But it's a lot better than taking the alternative routes through that area. Those of you familiar with the place know that parallel to the toll-free road is a toll road that goes alongside most of it. Unless you have business to do at the airport, you're supposed to take the toll road, which moves much more slowly and tends to be dicey during commuting hours. And all of the other alternative routes are even more congested and take much longer to navigate. 

So what can commuters who work anywhere near or around the Dulles area do to decrease their commuting time? They can do "airport business," that's what. Some have learned to use the toll-free road and stop to buy a cup of coffee or a newspaper at the one and only Dulles Airport gas station. This cup of coffee saves them 40 minutes or so that they'd have to spend fighting traffic on the alternative routes. And if they're careful to get a receipt as evidence of their 99 cent purchase, they can show it to any cop who stops them and say, "Yes sir, officer, I've been doing airport business." 

This semantic extension of the common meaning of "airport business" was actually verified by the airport's police chief, who said: "If they are not stopping, they are not there on airport business."

So here you have evidence of semantic change in progress. Lexicographers take note:

airport business n (2008) 1. a transaction such as the purchase of magazines, gasoline, newspapers, coffee, or muffins in or around an area officially designated as an airport. 2. archaic,  an action or transaction at airports, such as taking a flight, picking up or delivering passengers, or buying airline tickets. 


Comments are closed.