Railroad Talk
Posted: 05 August 2011 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  849
Joined  2007-02-07

In the world of industrial motors, there is a somewhat common slang term for the junction box that is “pecker head.”

I decided to see if I could find an etymology for this term and I stumbled across this site that I found very entertaining and thought there might be others here that would also enjoy it. It’s not meant to be anything other than fun, and I think they’ve achieved that splendidly.

I think the railroad connection to the junction box term is plausible, but it’s not the sort of thing one would expect to show up in print very often so I doubt that we’ll ever know for sure.

Anyway, if you want to know what a “Tommy Dodd” is, or “smooth” this is your place.

From Mr. Glenn Holmes Sr., Brotherhood of Railroad Switchmen (Local #72): Railroad Talk.

Posted: 06 August 2011 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  2581
Joined  2007-01-30

Thanks, happydog, most enjoyable. I’d never come across that sense of pecker head before. As always with such fun sites one should treat the etymologies with caution. For instance I’m wary of this one for deadbeat:

Defined by Webster as “one who persistently fails to pay his debts or way.” The word was coined in the late 1800’s when railroad workers noticed that loaded freight cars made a different beat over the track-joints than cars that weren’t carrying a load. The empty cars made a “dead beat” which meant they weren’t paying their way. By the beginning of the 20th century “deadbeat” came to encompassed people who failed to carry their share of the load also.

OED has an 1863 cite and I’d be far more inclined to connect this sense to the earlier sense of exhausted.

1863 Cornhill Mag. Jan. 94 ‘Beau’ Hickman [was] a professional pensioner, or, in the elegant phraseology of the place ‘a deadbeat’.

Posted: 06 August 2011 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  650
Joined  2011-04-10

The “deadbeat” watch escapement was invented in 1675 or slightly thereafter, depending on whose history one reads.  Wikipedia link

It’s probably too much of a stretch to expect that it has anything to do with the etymology of the sense of “deadbeat” as in “worthless sponging idler,” (etymonline) but it is roughly mechanically equivalent to the ‘no-load’ situation laid out at the railroad site.

[ Edited: 06 August 2011 06:54 AM by sobiest ]
Posted: 06 August 2011 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  1454
Joined  2007-01-29

Brilliant, happydog - I like “Wig Wag - A grade-crossing signal”.