The nature of Bitcoin is such that once version 0.1 was released, the core design was set in stone for the rest of its lifetime. Because of that, I wanted to design it to support every possible transaction type I could think of. The problem was, each thing required special support code and data fields whether it was used or not, and only covered one special case at a time. It would have been an explosion of special cases. The solution was script, which generalizes the problem so transacting parties can describe their transaction as a predicate that the node network evaluates. The nodes only need to understand the transaction to the extent of evaluating whether the sender's conditions are met.
The script is actually a predicate. It's just an equation that evaluates to true or false. Predicate is a long and unfamiliar word so I called it script.
The receiver of a payment does a template match on the script. Currently, receivers only accept two templates: direct payment and bitcoin address. Future versions can add templates for more transaction types and nodes running that version or higher will be able to receive them. All versions of nodes in the network can verify and process any new transactions into blocks, even though they may not know how to read them.