Railroad Jargon

Most professions have their own jargon, a specialized vocabulary that applies to that field. Railroading is no different in this respect. Many railroading terms are familiar to us. Terms like whistle stop and cowcatcher are distinctly old-fashioned.

But not all railroad jargon terms are archaic or obsolete. Here is a selection of modern terms in use by those who run the railroads.

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Review: The Complete New Yorker

The New Yorker may very well be the greatest magazine ever published. Since it began to be published in 1925, the New Yorker has featured some of the greatest writers in the English language. Dorothy Parker, E.B. White, James Thurber, Martin Amis, W.H. Auden, Stephen Vincent Benet, Ernest Hemingway, and F.Scott Fitzgerald have all contributed to the magazine. Every week for over eighty years the New Yorker has provided an eclectic mix of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, photographs, and of course cartoons.

After eighty years of publication, the entire archive of the New Yorker, from 21 February 1925 to 14 February 2005, is now available on DVD-ROM. Coming on eight DVDs, the entirety of every issues is available, all the articles, all the stories, all the cartoons, and even the ads.

The collection has a list price of $100, but is available on Amazon and elsewhere for a little over $60. At this price it is an utter steal.

The collection is not without flaws. Biggest among them is that the archive is not full-text searchable. You can search titles, article abstracts and key words, as well as by author, department, and issue, but you can’t search within the articles themselves. Also, you cannot install the issues on your hard drive.

But given the price, these are minor complaints. The archive is well worth it. If you can resist running out and buying it right away, be sure to put it on your holiday gift lists.

Words On The Web: Language Blogs

Most of us know that blog, a clipped form of weblog, is an online journal, usually updated daily and often including the ability for others to comment on the journal entries. The term weblog dates to 1997 and blog to 1999.

Blog can also be used as verb, meaning to maintain such a journal, and it has given rise to blogger, one who maintains a blog, and blogosphere, the universe of blogs.

But this is not the extent of linguistic interest in blogs. There are several excellent blogs on language that are worth checking out at least every few days. Some of these are listed below:

Double-Tongued Word Wrester is more like an online dictionary than a journal, but you can post comments to the entries. It’s maintained by Grant Barrett, an occasional contributor to the Wordorigins discussion forum.

Every Way But One is a blog maintained by a graduate student in linguistics.

Journal Extime is another blog maintained by a graduate student in linguistics.

Language Guy provides commentary on language by a retired professor of linguistics.

Language Hat will be familiar with those who read the Wordorigins discussion forum. It’s maintained by one of our regular and most valued contributors.

Language Log is maintained by a number of linguists and people interested in language.

Tenser, said the Tensor is yet another blog maintained by a graduate student in linguistics. It covers a wide variety of topics (language, science fiction, computers and technology, comics, anime, and other geekery) and is more personal than most on this list.

Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey addresses linguistics, philosophy, and politics.

And if you find this blogs interesting, you will have to check out Technorati.com, a up-to-the-minute search engine of the entire blogosphere.

Diner Slang

Waiters and cooks in diners and other short-order restaurants have traditionally used a colorful jargon to describe the various orders that customers place. What follows is a number of terms in this jargon. Now, this jargon is not universal; not all diners use it and often there are many different variants and options for a particular order, as witnessed by the numerous names for common food items on this list.

Some of these jargon terms, like eighty-six and java, are more general slang. Most of the others are obscure.

The jargon probably arose as a means of entertainment, both for the staff who would quickly tire of the same orders again and again and for the amusement of customers. And of course this diner slang served the traditional purpose of a jargon of identifying those who were experienced in the short-order business.

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Department of Humorous Names

According to the Associated Press, the Cornwall Record Office in Britain has compiled a list of 1,000 odd or unusual names found in census, birth, death, and marriage records dating back to the 16th century. The list contains such gems as Abraham Thunderwolff and Freke Dorothy Fluck Lane.

The list was inspired by the discovery of a real-life Horatio Hornblower in county records, a name more famous as being that of C.S. Forester’s fictional naval hero. The real Horatio had six siblings, named Azubia, Constantia, Jecoliah, Jedidah, Jerusha and Erastus.

The records tell us that a man named Levi Jeans lived in Cornwall in the late-18th century.

Other names on the list include Boadicea Basher, Philadelphia Bunnyface, Faithful Cock, Susan Booze, Elizabeth Disco, Edward Evil, Fozzitt Bonds, Truth Bullock, Charity Chilly, Gentle Fudge, Obedience Ginger and Offspring Gurney.

Marriage records tell us that Nicholas Bone and Priscilla Skin were joined in wedlock in 1636. Charles Swine and Jane Ham were married in 1711 and John Mutton and Ann Veale tied the knot in 1791. Finally, Richard Dinner and Mary Cook were joined in 1802.

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