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Railroad Baking Slang

In railroad workers’ slang, the expression to bake a cake means to build up steam in a locomotive by stoking a fire. Another term for a train’s fireman is bakehead. This is part of a complete episode.

Ball the Jack

A Tallahassee, Florida, man says that when his father was passed by a speeding car, he’d say that the driver was balling the jack. In the early 20th century, a fast, high-energy dance among African-Americans was called balling the jack. The...

Train Crummy

Train conductors sometimes refer to the caboose as the crummy. The name may derive from the idea of crew workers leaving crumbs and other garbage all over the back of that last car. Gandy dancers are railroad maintenance workers whose synchronized...

Doing the Limbo

Hi, all! In last weekend's archive episode, we discussed the musical language of railroad conductors’ calls. Also, the military slang term cumshaw, tips for learning Latin, the influence of Spanish on English, hell-to-the-no...

Anaheim, Azusa, and Cu-ca-monga!

All aboard! This week, a bit about the musical language of railroad conductors’ calls: “Anaheim, Azusa, and Cu-ca-monga!” Also, the origin of the military slang term cumshaw, tips for learning Latin, the influence of Spanish...

Railroad Conductor Language

A trip to the California State Railroad Museum has Grant musing about the way language can change in the mouth of a single individual— in this case, railroad conductors. He recommends a collection of sound files from metros and subways around the...