Dad Fires Up His 'Range' Rover
My 23-year-old daughter called me the other day to tell me that her landlord had provided a "new oven" for her apartment. "Do you mean you got a whole new range?" I asked.
"What's a range?" she asked.
"It's the entire stove," I explained. "The oven and the burners."
"Oh, yeah, that's what I got."
This conversation set me to wondering -- no, not whether she'd invite me over for a home-cooked meal -- but why we call this kitchen appliance a "range"?
"Range," which shares a Germanic root with "rank," originally meant "a line or row of something," and we still use this meaning today when we speak of a "range of mountains."
This "line" sense gave rise to the use of "range" to describe an expanse of land defined by lines or boundaries, as in "grazing range." Eventually, people started using "range" metaphorically to denote the space or extent in which certain items are included, covered or used, as in a "range of options" or the "range of a missile."
(I can hear my daughter saying, "OK, Boomer, get on with it!)
The use of "range" to refer to a cooking device dates all the way back to the early 1400s, and, interestingly enough, it grew out of BOTH the "line" and "space or extent" meanings of "range."
Early metal stoves included not only an oven but also a row of two or more heated openings atop the oven for cooking; picture a range of mountains, each topped with a fire pit. Hey, wait, that's a range of active volcanoes!