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Puffin and Pelican crossings aren’t actually named after birds and people are mindblown

Claire Reid

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Puffin and Pelican crossings aren’t actually named after birds and people are mindblown

Did you know that pelican crossings and puffin crossings are not named after the birds? Listen, I won’t lie, I had absolutely no clue and I reckon you’re lying if you say you do. You can see the real meaning here, brace yourself:

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Yep, you - like me - may have spent your whole life assuming that the crossings were, for some weird reason, given ornithological names. 

But you would be dead wrong, because the names are actually acronyms and a ‘pelican crossing’ should really be a ‘pelicon crossing, if we’re being pedantic. Every day is a school day, eh?

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As you probably know, a pelican crossing is a crossing system that has signals for both pedestrians and road traffic, activated when the pedestrian pushes a button.

A puffin crossing, which is not named after the bird. Credit: Edward Simons / Alamy Stock Photo
A puffin crossing, which is not named after the bird. Credit: Edward Simons / Alamy Stock Photo

However, you might not know that they were traditionally called pelicon crossings, as the name is derived from the phrase ‘PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled’. Meaning it has nothing to do with the bird at all, it’s not even spelt the same way. 

And it doesn’t stop there because a puffin crossing, which is similar to a pelican crossing except that the lights signalling to the pedestrian are on the same side as them instead of opposite like we see with a pelican crossing, is so named because its a ‘Pedestrian User-Friendly INtelligent’. The more you know, eh?

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In the US, comparable crossing systems to the aforementioned pelican and puffin are named HAWK beacons and - yep, you guessed it - that is also an acronym; it stands for High-Intensity Activated crossWalK. 

Now, to confuse things further, a toucan crossing is neither an acronym nor is it named after the bird. 

A toucan crossing isn't named after the bird, either. Credit:  Martyn Williams / Alamy Stock Photo
A toucan crossing isn't named after the bird, either. Credit: Martyn Williams / Alamy Stock Photo

A toucan crossing, which is similar to a pedestrian crossing but it also allows bikes to be ridden across, is weirder again as it gets its name from ‘two can cross’ - as in, pedestrians and cyclists can cross at the same time - ‘two can’ becomes toucan and ta dah!

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Does anyone else feel like whoever comes up with these names is having us all on at this point? 

Oh and while we’re on the subject of animal-related crossing system names, zebra crossings are called zebra crossing because they are stripped, like zebras - but then in the US they’re called marked crosswalks, which is slightly less cute, but is clear at least. 

Anyway, I think that’s quite enough learning for me for one day.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Cars, UK News

Claire Reid
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