Dashboard Definition

Aug 30, 2014

RAY: This puzzler was sent in to us by Bob Shea from cyberspace. Everyone knows that the panel on an airplane is called an instrument panel because it contains all of the flight instruments, which help the pilot and co-pilot know where their plane's going.

Well, a car also has instruments but it's not called an instrument panel. We call it a dashboard.My question, very simply, is, where does the term "dashboard" come from?

Answer: 
RAY: Before there were cars, people used to get around using horses and buggies, and as you might imagine the roads were dirt and when it rained the roads became muddy. So if you were in a buggy and the horse was trotting along, the rear hooves would kick up mud. So carriages or wagons had a board that was fixed at an angle not unlike the dashboards of cars, and it was called the "dashboard." In fact, if you remember Ward Bond leading the wagon trains across the plains, they used to put their feet on there. And when they started building cars, of course, they were really adapting carriages.

TOM: Sure.

RAY: So the thing that they attached the instruments in the car to, or the horseless wagon, was called the "dashboard" because it looked just like the dashboard of a wagon. And it was called the "dashboard" because it did its job primarily when the horses were kicking up mud when they were dashing. So who’s our winner?

TOM: The winner is Linda Robitaille from Naples, Florida. Congratulations!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter