Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.
Each week, we tell about American expressions and where they come from.
Today we talk about railroads. Railroads were important to the development of the United States. The first U.S. railroads were built in eastern states. Trains later connected the East Coast with the West Coast.
Train and railway expressions worked their way into American English over a century ago. Many of those terms are still being used today.
Railroads changed the look of the United States. They cut through mountains, crossed through wide open prairies and joined together in cities. The railroads made transporting goods easier. They also gave many Americans the chance to move around the country.
Sometimes railroad tracks would not join up in a town but divide it in two. One side of the tracks might be good, while the other side was ‘not-so-good.' If you say someone is from the wrong side of the tracks, it means they are from the bad side of town.
For the train running down the track there is no right or wrong side. The track is simply the metal structure on which the train runs.
To go off track means to move away from one's intended purpose or goal.
For example, you could say your career went way off track if you wanted to be a lawyer but became an actor instead. But if you go to law school and complete your studies, your career is back on track. Let's say you finished law school very quickly because you took double the course load. You then could say you fast-tracked your way to becoming a lawyer. In the world of business, it is common to say a project has been fast-tracked or is on a fast track.
To stay on track means to pay attention to your goal or purpose. But getting sidetracked is just the opposite. A train that is sidetracked gets sent to a different station or down a different line.
Talking about train tracks, a rail is a single piece of steel that is part of the larger railway. Some rails are dangerous to touch. In some cities, a third rail provides power to a subway train, usually operating underground; electricity passes through the rail.
The third rail also is an issue which can fuel a heated debate. At a party, religion or politics could be third rail topics. Talking about them could kill your social life!
Many Americans say things get derailed when they go off track or away from a goal – or when they simply go wrong. For example, they might say something like this, "My travel plans got derailed by the bad weather."
It usually is bad news when something gets derailed. When something goes off the rails, it is always a bad thing. To go off the rails means a person's project or life is a wreck, or -- pardon the expression -- a train wreck.
When a train reaches its final stop, we say it has reached the end of the line. If you reach the end of the line you have come to the end of something. Often in old films, this is what the bad guy says just before he kills someone.
"It's the end of the line for your buddy boy."
And we have reached the end of the line for this Words and Their Stories. In other words, the show is over.
I'm Anna Matteo.
1.prairies n. （美）[畜牧] 大草原（prairie的复数）
The music invoked the wide open spaces of the prairies.
A Federal Court case had been fast tracked to Wednesday.
3.sidetrack vt. 将（火车）[建] 转到侧线；转变（话题） n. （铁路）侧线；次要地位 vi. [建] 转到侧线；转变话题
He'd managed to avoid being sidetracked by Schneider's problems.
4.third rail (政治上的)险局 [美国英语] ['the' N]
Politicians speak of Social Security as the third rail. To touch it is to commit political suicide.
5.derail vt. 使出轨 vi. 出轨 n. 脱轨；[铁路] 脱轨器
The present wave of political killings is the work of people trying to derail peace talks.
1.But if you go to law school and complete your studies, your career is back on track.
back on track 重回正轨；重上轨道；改过自新
David put me back on track.
It may take some time to get the British economy back on track.
2.When something goes off the rails, it is always a bad thing.
go off the rails （非正式）行为不轨； 越轨； 出毛病； 神经错乱
He is always a dutiful person, so will not go off the rails.
Some people were injured when the train went off the rails.
有时铁路会把城镇一分为二，铁路的一边发展得很好，另一边就不那么好了。如果你说一个人from the wrong side of the tracks，意思是说他来自城镇不好的那边 。
To go off track意思说脱离某人原本的目标。
比如，如果你想成为律师，但却成了一名演员，你可以说自己的事业脱离了正轨。但如果你去了法学院，完成自己的学业，那么你的事业又重回正轨 。假如你承担了双倍的学业任务，很快从法学院毕业，那么你就可以说你快速实现了做律师的目标 。在商业世界里，说一个项目快速跟进或进入快车道很常见 。
To stay on track意思是关注你的目标或目的，但是getting sidetracked正好相反，一条sidetracked的火车会驶向不同的车站或不同的铁路线。
The third rail是指挥引发激烈争论的问题，在聚会上，宗教或政治话题都可能是雷区，谈论这些问题会毁掉你的社交生活。
很多美国人会在事情偏离目标或出错时说things get derailed，他们可能会这么说，“我的旅行计划因为糟糕的天气未能实现。”
事情偏离轨道通常是坏消息，某些事情脱离正轨始终是坏事。go off the rails意思说某人的计划或生活是个烂摊子，很抱歉用到这个词 。