who laid the rail adv. phr. in the forms from or to or until or for or since who laid the rail: with all possible speed, force, or action; completely, thoroughly, excessively, endlessly, limitlessly; quickly; forever, always, since time immemorial, until the end of time. Editorial Note: The origins of this expression are unknown. A phrase used in the same way is “who laid the chunk,” which dates to at least as early as 1906. The phrase “who laid the rail” was also used by the character of the mayor in the stageplay The Music Man, written in 1957 by Meredith Willson and made as a movie in 1962, but as indicated by the cites below, the term predates the play by many decades. One of the most well-known songs in The Music Man, “Ya Got Trouble,” sung by Professor Harold Hill, is about pool halls corrupting the youth of the town. It includes the line, “Right here in River City./Trouble with a capital “T”/And that rhymes with “P”/and that stands for pool!” Interestingly, but probably coincidentally, the 1906 citation from Dallas is from an article discussing a city ordinance that would shutter pool halls in that town. Thanks to Martha Barnette for suggesting this entry. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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5 Responses

  1. Al. G. says:

    I believe it means something to the effect of “smcking you from here to kingdom come”, only in this case it is to China.  Who laid the rails refers to the Chinese “coolies” who built the Union Pacific railway.

  2. Do you have any evidence that it’s related to Chinese railroad workers? I found no information at all that corroborates that.

  3. CW Campbell says:

    Given the grammatical usage, the sound and the meaning (to the extreme) it sounds to me like one of those folksy substitutions for a profanity (here, “hell”). Of course, I have no citation, so take that for what it’s worth.

  4. Julie Dobkin says:

    I have no thought as to the derivation, but I was trying to get a real handle on its usage. For many of the citations I was able to substitute ” ‘til all get-out”.  Just a thought.

    jad May 6, 2008

  5. Karen Ryan says:

    I grew up in the 40s and 50s in a town in Southwestern Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.

    I remember hearing an expression I never saw in print which sounded this way to me “ta hulada”.

    It seemed to mean “all out” or “whole heartedly” or as Julie suggests “‘til all get-out”. Example: He was singing ta hulada!

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