Saturday, August 24, 2013


John from Suttons Bay asked about the word railroaded.  To railroad is to force someone in a particular direction, to coerce him or her into a hasty action or decision that may not be in his or her best interest. I have seen two explanations, both of them plausible. First, railroad tracks do not allow choice of direction; you are forced to go where they lead. Second, some19th century railroad barons were notorious for forcing landowners to sell by using any and all means.

I find it interesting that even though passenger trains have had their day, certain expressions from an earlier era are still in use today. A quick trek through memory dredged these up.

  • bells and whistles
  • blow your stack
  • busy as Grand Central station
  • derail a plan
  • end of the line
  • full head of steam
  • gravy train
  • jump the track
  • keep chugging along
  • keep on track (but could also be a dirt  path)
  • light at the end of the tunnel
  • on the wrong track (but could also be a dirt path)
  • one track mind (but could also be a dirt path)
  • that train has left the station
  • third rail issue
  • ticket to nowhere
  • train of thought
  • train wreck
  • wrong side of the tracks

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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