First up, A Vocabulary Lesson for Children.
In full disclosure, I do not have any children of my own, but I frequently borrow the children of relatives and friends to help me feel all fatherly wise without actually having to change any diapers. One thing I’ve noticed in my pretend parenting is that these little buggers are curious, and tend to ask about things that are best left ignored.
For instance, your little Susie may be in the throes of learning to read (a skill I wouldn’t recommend – it just makes them ask more questions), and upon hopping out of the SUV in the Sears parking structure, sees the lettering barely visible on the pavement under the back end of your monster vehicle.
“What is “c-o-m-p-a-c-t,” daddy?”
Do you see the problem? Susie might mistakenly believe that “compact” refers to the size of the car that is supposed to be parked in this space. She is way too young to understand the logical and philosophical reasoning illustrating why this is a rule that only applies to that obnoxious station wagon driver that stole the spot right outside the door to Target last week (requiring you to have to explain to Susie why the words you used in that situation shouldn’t be repeated during show and tell at school) and is clearly not meant for daddys whose behemoth vehicle fits easily in such spaces without having to cross the lines on either side by more than a few inches or so.
Look around any mall parking lot, and you will see that you aren’t the only one with this problem. In fact, you can always distract Susie by playing the “see if you can find a compact car in a compact space” game, which is a very tricky sport.
But don’t worry – I am here to solve your problem. Explain to Susie that, while in some usages “compact” refers to smaller vehicles, the word has many meanings. Third on the list in my dictionary is “tightly packed or dense.”
Tell your little girl that this is a space designated for dense people. I’m sure that with one look at you, she will be perfectly satisfied with that answer.
Just my thoughts,