Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Word and Phrase Origins


More Railroad Word and Phrase Origins:

"picking up the slack"

"tell-tale sign"

"full head of steam"

"the real McCoy"


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


"Dead End"

—Wayne Gushard

12/20/2008 10:02 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Can anyone verify whether the phrase "Dead End" was originally railroad terminology as suggested by Wayne Gushard?

12/20/2008 10:03 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I can't speak to "Dead End" – Certainly no specifically railroad association comes to my mind.

As to
Sabotage – "the practice by striking French railway workers of cutting the sabot [metal shoe] that held railroad tracks in place. The word appears in English in 1910 and early use specifically refers to the French railroad strikers."
My understanding has always been that this work derived from (French) anti-industrial workers that threw their sabots (wooden shoes) into factory gears to break them. I never heard a railroad association before.

On sabotage, the following is by far the most extensive, and appears to support the much earlier origin of Sabotage.

See also the following

Wikipedia raises questions about this definition, but doesn't present particularly compelling evidence for its own much later railroad origins of the word. dates the origins of the word back to 1865-70. See here for Sabot.

Also scroll down here to "Sabotage."

A more thorough discussion is here and also here.


12/22/2008 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Evan Clark"

In your Railroad Idioms web page (which I loved by the way), you ask for additional railroad terminology in common usage today. Here are a couple of others:

train wreck - as in, "This project is a train wreck"
freight train - as in, "He hits like a freight train"
end of the line - as in, "It's the end of the line for you"

A couple of the idioms you list are probably not from the railroad originally:

fast track - probably refers to horse racing (see this and this)
backtrack - probably has reference to a way of avoiding being tracked by scent

Thanks for putting up an interesting page.

—Evan Clark, NetControl Terminal, Union Pacific Railroad

7/23/2014 9:51 PM  

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