Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Firestone tires advert, early 20th century

This is another transport word which has an interesting etymology. It comes from the French tirer, to pull, and originally referred to iron hoops or thick wires bound to carriage wheels and pulled onto the rim.  This is still the case with older railway wheels; basically the tire prevents the need to replace the whole wheel and axle set when worn spots develop - the old tire is removed by heating (steel expands when hot) and pulling it off.  The new tire is likewise heated by fire and pulled/hammered on.  However, tough monoblock wheels have become increasingly common.

Where the British developed the 'tyre' respelling from isn't clear, it first emerged in the 1900s but wasn't generally accepted until the late 1920s.

Car tires were typically made of solid rubber until the pneumatic tire became the norm.  The French word for a tire is pneu from pneumatique.

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