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Why is the place where the pilot sits called a `cockpit'?

(B.V. Rajasekhar, Bangalore)

The word `cockpit' was in use long before the airplane was invented. Cock-fighting was a very popular sport in Europe. Men would dig a small pit, drop the two feathered contestants into it, and watch as the two birds tore into each other. The original meaning of `cockpit' was a small enclosure where birds fought. With the passage of time, however, the word took on a broader meaning: it began to refer to any place, usually small, where there was a lot of fighting. Belgium, for example, was referred to as `the cockpit of Europe'. When planes began to be used during the First World War, the place where the pilot sat began to be called a cockpit because all the action was taking place in the confined space.

S. UPENDRAN

upendrankye@gmail.com

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