Beware of this four letter word when analysing community responses

Firstly, let’s agree that the English language has some quirks and can be challenging at the best of times with words like their, there. Words with different spelling and meanings that sound exactly the same when spoken.

I recently discovered another quirk of the English language when analysing community responses from an online survey about planning and development in a city context.

I discovered a four letter word with the same spelling and completely different meanings.

Analysing qualitative data can be complicated at the best of times but throw in the word ‘park’ and it can be really complicated.

Most words in the English language, in the context of planning and development, have a single meaning and are relatively easy to analyse for frequency. For example, traffic, transport, greenspace, housing, sustainability.

Then I came across the word park and realised what a minefield it was. A simple frequency search on this word would not suffice for qualitative data analysis.

Here’s why (in case you haven’t already figured it out).

The word park can be used in two completely different contexts.

One is a green space with trees and grass that is a popular destination for people to hang out in and enjoy the outdoors.

The other is a small area (2.6m x 5.5m) usually covered in asphalt or concrete and delineated by a white line marking for the purpose of hosting a car.

Both of these uses of the word park are nouns. The latter also lends itself to using the word park as a verb (parking) relative to cars and not greenspaces.

While it would certainly be more convenient to be able to analyse data for carpark and park, the reality is the community use the word park to describe a greenspace, a place to leave a car and the action of leaving your car somewhere.

Because of the complexities of this four-letter word, data analysis software couldn’t be relied upon to accurately categorise the word park. Instead each instance of the word had to be analysed by a human in context to determine whether it was related to transport or greenspace.

We’ve recently analysed thousands of community responses and although many people find this kind of work tedious, we rise to the challenge. Contact us about your community engagement and data analysis needs.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Andrew Coulson

    I actually think this could be an Australian English thing, happy to be proven wrong. Something I noticed when I first started working for a local council in Australia after moving from the UK. When setting up an engagement event I was asked if I would need a park… I looked puzzled clearly…. why would I need a park – a place with grass and trees? Only to find out later the person meant a carpark space or place to park my car. Lazy English I thought until it began to happen regularly… ‘Make sure you get a park, it’s busy at that time’ – ‘save us a park when you get their’ – ‘will you pay for the park’…

    It still confuses me today for a few seconds when I hear it but after nearly 7 years of experience I eventually click. You me ‘to park’ or a ‘parking space’ not an actual park

    So maybe not a quirk in English itself but regional use of language?

    18 October 2018 at 10:28 am | Reply

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