Our cat, the rubber-tyred railcar

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Shimbleshanks

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Our smallest cat was tearing about the house like a mad thing yesterday when my French missus referred to her as "a Micheline". The Micheline being a rubber-tyred railcar promoted by the tyre company in the 1930s.

As my Missus is one of the least rail-enthusiastic persons I know (despite, or possibly because of having lived with me for 30-odd years) that immediately raised my eyebrows. I said: "How come you know that term?" She said: "It's because the Micheline was a small train that went very fast. We say it about anything small that rushes about in France."

Can anyone else think of a relatively obscure railway term that has passed into common usage in this way, in any language? I know the French also refer to anything or anyone that rushes about as "le TGV" though the TGV is of course current and high profile. Brits in general don't after all call a person that makes a lot of noise and emits a huge cloud of hot air a 'Deltic'. Or someone who is always grumbling to themselves and coughing a DMU.
 
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LNW-GW Joint

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"Wrong side of the tracks."
"Train wreck"
"Derailed"
"Hit the buffers"
"Head of steam"
Probably many others (some are American, granted).
Americanisms linked to rail also find their way into other things: eg airline tickets are one-way or round trip, just like their terms for single or return rail tickets.
I don't think we have a rail term for "open jaw" tickets!
 

Shimbleshanks

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Yes, and the Americans also have the expression 'cornfield meet' to describe a disaster, though not sure if it was actually ever a railroad term.

I wonder what sort of person might be described as "a pendolino..."
 

edwin_m

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A lot of the odd terms in English originate in the heyday of British sea power, roughly from Nelson to the Dreadnoughts. Such as "under way", "close to the wind", "taken aback", "fired a broadside". Even something like "full steam ahead" may actually be nautical in origin, derived from "full ahead" commanded to the engine room by speaking tube or telegraph. With America being less sea-orientated, due to most of them being a long way from it, maybe the railroad acted as an alternative source of phrases.
 

deltic1989

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Brits in general don't after all call a person that makes a lot of noise and emits a huge cloud of hot air a 'Deltic'.
Although it could be said that I do make a lot of noise and emit large clouds of hot air. :D :D :D

Yes, and the Americans also have the expression 'cornfield meet' to describe a disaster, though not sure if it was actually ever a railroad term.
"
That particular term may originate from the same place as "Bought the farm", which came from the US Air Force. When Pilots crashed on farmland the Air Force were (and probably still are) obligated to compensate the farmer for the loss of the crop/cattle/use of the field. Farmers would abuse this system and vastly over quote the value of the land, to 2 or 3 times what it was actually worth. So from that crashing an aircraft is called "buying the farm". (OT I know, but origins of phrases is something I find facinating.)
 
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