Lauren Krueger & Matthew David Brozik


In Definally on September 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm

“Grizzly” Aaron Y. of Long Island, NY, who evidently spends a lot of time outdoors (but never far from man-made structures), asks Definally. to chart the differences among several particular architectural features, and Definally. obliges, as follows:

A porch is a covered, ground-level shelter projecting from the front of the entrance of a building. (A porch in the back of a building is a “back porch.”) Also known as a veranda. [UPDATE: A lanai is a porch/veranda in Hawai’i or Miami.]

A deck is a simple platform-like structure, typically made of lumber and unroofed, attached to a house or other building.

A patio is a paved outdoor area adjoining a house. (Also the basis for one of Definally.’s favorite jokes: What’s Irish and stays out all night? Paddy O’Furniture.)

A balcony is an a enclosed platform on the outside of a building, accessible via an upper-floor window or door.

(Now get this: Some sources equate a terrace with a porch, while others suggest that it is just another word for patio—but those are not the same things (the difference being whether there is shelter). Etymologically, the word terrace comes from the Latin terra (“earth”), but in Old French meant “platform,” and in the early 16th century meant, at first, an open gallery… but then later a balcony in a theater! Terrace, it seems, wants to be all things to all people. Definally. therefore recommends that no one ever again use the word terrace to mean anything. That’s the punishment for being greedy.)

So, what we see is that a single structure can have all of the above architectural features at once. One might enter a house through its front door, stepping inside from the porch, making his way through the building only to emerge again (after changing into swim trunks) in the rear, exiting onto to the veranda before venturing to the stone patio, where the wet bar is, for a gin and tonic, which he might take to a chaise longue on the wooden deck surrounding the in-ground pool, all the while oblivious of the contract killer with the high-powered rifle on the second-story balcony drawing a bead on him….

Ground level? Basis of joke? Useful to snipers?
Porch Yes Yes No No
Deck No Maybe No No
Patio No Yes Yes No
Balcony Yes No No Yes
  1. What about a Lanai? #2 on the top 10 best things about “the golden girls”

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