Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Here's the Caboose!

What's a Caboose?

When I grew up any child -- at least in Canada and the USA knew what a Caboose was. I figure most folk who spoke English natively might know that. The "caboose" was the special train car that came at the end of a train. In fact it confused me that passenger trains didn't have them!

Now they no longer put cabooses at the end of freight trains, they have been replaced by electronic boxes of some sort they put at the back of the last car in the train. The function of the caboose as a car for the train crew no longer exists and the entire crew is -- I imagine either in the engine or in the various railroad offices.

Perhaps cabooses have become "extinct" on today's railroads, but what does this mean for the caboose in the English language? I don't imagine that many will miss it and people will simply think that those who talk about getting a "swift kick in the caboose" are a bit eccentric. They might wonder at some of the children's books that talk about trains and mention cabooses. (image of CPR caboose to right -- image from "Railway Photography by Chris vanderHeide") Of course "caboose" might not be the only word that gets you weird looks. What do you think kids today make of "Choo choo train"? Other than special tour trains and museums and in movies and on TV they might not see a steam engine or even if so not equate it with "Choo choo trains".

It is something that has happened again and again with changes in society and technology. When was the last time you talked about a "Hi Fi"? "Gramophone" "Victrola". I wonder how long before "record player" disappears from our normal vocabulary and is relegated to Scrabble games or Crossword puzzles?

I hope that doesn't happen with something like "polar bear".

~ Darrell


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