Via happydog’s Wordorigins post, I present Railroad Terminology, Slang, and Definitions, from the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Glenn Holmes Sr., Local #72. I have a weakness for such assemblages of the jargon of particular trades, lovingly assembled not by lexicographers but by the practitioners of the trade, who tend to write unscientific but enjoyable entries. The lead-in to the vocabulary goes like this:

When I hired on the MO-PAC, back in ’76, I overheard my foreman tellin’ one of the old head signalman on our gang to ” . . . keep an eye out fer th’ switch engine, cus it could show up at anytime”. Well, being a new boot and not knowin’ nothin’, I asked my foreman, “How do you know which one of these trains is a switch engine?” and he told me “After ya been on this man’s railroad for a few years, you’ll know what a switch engine is, now get back to diggin'”. Right friendly feller he was.

  Well, here I am, some 30 years later and now I’m th’ “old head” and I got new boots and citizens asking me th’ same things, ‘cept I’m a little friendlier. Ya’ think you know what a “Tommy Dodd” is, or how ’bout a “snipe“, or maybe a “Blue Goose“. Read on and enjoy and when someone asks you “What is a Pussyfoot, anyway?” you’ll know just what to tell ’em. Oh, and by the way, a switch engine is . . .

An entry pulled at random: “When do you shine?” = “What time were you called for?” And for AJP, a “Green Goat” is a hybrid electric locomotive using batteries to power electric traction motors. Have fun, but watch out for Rule G!


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    I never heard “shine” used that way on the Southern Pacific, but when I went East and worked on the Jersey Central, not turning up for work was called “failing to shine” or “failing to shine out.” I surmised (partly from the pronunciation of “to” as “də”) that was connected to “failed assignment,” the rulebook term for the same offense.
    The compilation you linked to (I’ve only glanced at it so far) is a mix of officialese (e.g. the rulebook definition of “absolute block”) with on-the-job slang, which shows a lot of local variation: I never heard “green goat” on either coast but as a locomotive engineer I spent many years on the graveyard shift on switch engines, which we called “humping a midnight goat.”
    I also learned a vocabulary of hand signals which is shrinking because of changes in the railroad industry; many items in that lexicon refer to practices that have been largely eliminated, as being too labor-intensive and thus uneconomic. The only scholarly work I know on this subject is a paper from the 1960’s by the late Luis Kemnitzer, who was a brakeman before becoming a professor in the Anthropology department at San Francisco State.

  2. Congrats, L Hat, you conjured up a REAL railroad man…an engineer…rootless, did you drive steam? I’ve got an old Pentex video of an ex-Frisco brakeman explaining all the hand signals using railroad language in explaining them–it’s beautiful stuff–in the same shots, another brakeman is in the background using a handset to communicate those signals those hands used to signify. One of my best songs was entitled: “Oh, How I Miss Those Trains…Those Days of Trains”–after I did it at a New York City club one night year ago, a guy in the audience hollered out, “Oh, Poor Baby, did you miss your train?” When I was a kid in Dallas my bedroom window opened onto an unimpaired-by-manmade-structures rolling field of Johnson grass that after it rolled down away my house it then about a half-a-mile away suddenly lolled up into a little slope underwhich ran the Texas & Pacific Railroad’s (the TeePee) main line from Shreveport, Louisiana, over to Dallas–and late at night those old steam trains would come chugging up from out of the dark east with their whistles sending warning blares out as these iron horses (they were more like mammoths) approached all the crossings and their sounds either made me feel lonely and sad and blue, or they me feel glad I was alive and getting to enjoy such wonderful music, which gradually sung me to sleep–those were the days of cabooses, too; cabooses are no more. Nostalgia…but an interesting post, L Hat, the language brakeman. Do you have an old engineer’s hat, L? ‘Cept now they wear baseball hats mostly.

  3. rootlesscosmo says

    No, I hired out on the SP in 1963, about seven years after they completed the transition from steam to diesel.
    I would really like to see that video. I wrote a paper about the hand signals, usually called “signs,” which (like slang) show local variation, sometimes very different meanings for the same sign, sometimes signs referring to a unique local circumstance.
    Cabooses were a casualty of drastic reductions in the makeup of freight crews (“crew consist”) starting in the 90’s. Linda Niemann was a conductor on the SP Coast District (where I also worked); her book “On the Rails” has a terrific chapter about this and in general is an excellent account of the job as it was when I was there. Worth looking for on Bookfinder or wherever if it’s out of print.
    The steam-to-diesel transition led to battles over state “full crew” laws which the carriers succeeded in framing as anachronistic; the unions responded lamely that they were safety measures, but the laws were repealed, one by one. Much later it occurred to me to wonder why there had been a law requiring a fireman when the technology of the time required one anyway. It turns out (though nobody brought this up in the full crew disputes of the 60’s) the laws said “fireman eligible for promotion [to engineer],” which in the South meant white fireman, which was how the carriers and the craft unions got around the seniority system during the Depression, when junior white guys were getting laid off while senior (but “unpromotable”) black firemen were still working.
    I learned a lot on the railroad, one way and another.

  4. There’s no explanation of “brakeman”.

  5. Congrats, L Hat, you conjured up a REAL railroad man
    Yeah, this is a great thread already.

  6. John Emerson says

    I was about 10 when the steam to diesel transition took place. I was very sad. The orange and black diesels were prettier in a sense, but they were silent and infinitely less dramatic-looking.
    The line through town has been ripped up entirely. Great Northern or whatever they call it now has merged all of its east-west passenger lines into one. The Soo Line which is all freight still runs nearby.
    The settlement pattern in a lot of the state was decided by the steam engines’ need for water. You’ll see a town every 5-7 miles, even if it’s only 50 people. Even after the trains are gone, the towns remain.

  7. rootlesscosmo says

    Brakemen operated handbrakes (nowadays applied from wheel-like mechanism, usually at the roofline of the car) before the invention of airbrakes; handbrakes were still used as speed regulators during switching maneuvers with the airbrakes disabled. With the decline of “flat switching”in favor of gravity or hump yards, the function of handbrakes has largely been taken over by magnetic retarders on yard tracks. Brakemen had different duties in passenger service; the term carried over since the crew hierarchy (one conductor, two or more brakemen) was the same in passenger as in freight.

  8. rootlesscosmo says

    Memory lapse in my first comment:pumping (not humping) a midnight goat.

  9. Marc Leavitt says

    Really great stuff. It reminds me of military jargon. I spent three years in the Regular Army (RA all the way!) at the beginning of the 1960s. I could write a paper about the lingo, but just one example: I was sleeping in my bunk on TDY (temporary duty) when a staff sergeant walked in at 5:30 A.M. and said, “Un-ass that bed, young trooper!”

  10. And for AJP, a “Green Goat” is a hybrid electric locomotive using batteries to power electric traction motors.

    I think that’s called a pig in Danish.

  11. John Emerson says

    To Danes and Norwegians, goats are sacred and not to be contaminated by rail. You couldn’t imagine Crown’s goats working in a railyard.

  12. They’ve already got jobs. They work for the local council removing undergrowth by the reservoir, but I believe goats are employed by the railways in Britain to keep the embankments clear and inspect tickets.
    Thanks for “brakeman”, Rootless. I Think I’ve seen the man operating that wheel. I haven’t heard the word in Britain, though; I wonder if they say something different or simply use magnets. Glad to hear it’s “pumping” not “humping”.

  13. I believe that Crown’s goats have trained his family pretty well.
    On the same general subject: There’s the song about the goat who coughed up a red shirt and flagged down a train.

  14. Green Goat appears to be a brand name rather than a slang term.

  15. rootlesscosmo says

    @AJP Crown: US “brakeman” = British “guard,” French “agent de manoeuvre.” My craft, US locomotive engineer, is British “engine driver,” French “agent de conduite,” Russian “машинист.”

  16. rootlesscosmo says

    And German “lokomotivführer.” (US brakeman = British “pointsman” if the brakeman is doing switching in the yard.)

  17. and US “caboose” = British “guard’s van”? or “brake van”?

  18. rootlesscosmo says

    @ ∅: “Guard’s van,” I think. Continental railroads seem to have done away with them much earlier than in the US; a possible reason is that US freight trains were typically much longer (longer cars and more of them) so we needed a rear-end lookout for smoking wheel bearings (“hotboxes”) or other danger signs too far back to be seen from the engine.
    @ John Emerson: there had been an engineer on my district who while still a fireman had jumped or fallen into the tank while taking water for the engine; the nickname “Sanitary Jake” stuck with him for the rest of his working days. Other railroad nicknames included Shithead, Turdhead, Bubblehead, Boxhead, Peckerneck, Bedsores (he slept a lot on the job) and The Lost Dog.

  19. John Emerson says

    Once in North Dakota or thereabouts I was stopped by a train that seemed infinitely long. (I think that it was a lignite train.) Wiki tells me that trains can be as 4.5 miles long (a one-time experiment) , though in the US 3658 meters is the longest normally allowed.

  20. rootlesscosmo says

    A long train in my experience was 100-110 cars; average car length 50 ft. (15 meters.) Longer trains are harder to handle–braking, controlling slack etc. If you “break in two” somebody has to hike from one end or the other to the point of the break, close the airhose angle-cocks, signal to the head end to back up and recouple, reconnect the air, then schlep back (oh, good! It’s starting to snow!) while the air pressure is restored. Avoiding this delay and extra work is one of the marks of a skillful engineer. Handling trains with loaded tank cars is especially tricky because the damn liquids surge, so slack action creates a positive feedback that puts extra strain on the couplings (and on the rear-end crew when there were such things, yanked back and forth and hoping the train stays together.)
    I certainly know what Linda Niemann means by “the brakeman’s reward”–finding yourself in remote places, away from automobile routes, at daybreak or on a moonless night by the ocean or in the desert. Mostly, though, it was just a job; catching a good yard crew was nice, because it meant you got your work done quicker and spent more time in the shanty playing pinochle and shooting the shit, but working nights, working on call for the extra board, being away from home on road trips, working out in lousy weather, working with drunks or fuckups or racist assholes–that I don’t miss. In fact on rainy nights I still get a mild hit of gratification that I don’t have to go out a climb onto a locomotive till dawn.

  21. 3,658 metres = 4,000 yards.

  22. If you “break in two” on a slope is there anything to stop the rear part from rolling backwards, gathering speed, etc.?

  23. Guard’s van because, before continuous brakes, the only brakes on British trains were on the engine and on the van at the rear. Goods wagons (many of them not owned by the railway, but by private owners) had no brakes, unlike the usual US freight car.

  24. befuggled says

    It sounds like Sanitary Jake didn’t do too badly on the nickname front.

  25. rootlesscosmo says

    Yes. The air brakes are designed on the fail-safe principle: pressure (generated by a compressor on the engine, run off the engine’s power) keeps the brakes released, so any reduction in pressure, like the air hoses parting, causes immediate application of the brakes. Controlled application from the engine is done with the automatic brake valve, which reduces the pressure from the head end toward the rear (and restores it the same way when the valve is moved back to release position.)
    I stopped reading John MacPhee’s New Yorker article about railroading when I got to his assertion that train air brake pressure is restored from the point where the hoses separate. There is, of course, nothing in the middle of the train that can do this. When a train is recoupled, compressed air will flow from the point of coupling toward the rear, but the source is still the compressor on the locomotive; MacPhee seems not to have grasped the impossibility of pressure from the middle toward both ends, without anything to generate it. (Imagine someone saying that electrical current is restored up- and down-cord from the socket when you replace a lightbulb.) Falsus in unum, thought I; I no longer trust MacPhee about shad or geology, either.
    For switching, the air is drained (“bled off”) from the car’s brake cylinders, releasing the brakes so the car can roll free into yard tracks.
    I fear I’m monopolizing this thread–if my comments are getting over-detailed, I won’t mind being told so. (Gently, by Hat.)

  26. If we’re talkin’ railroads and communication, mention should be made of the CN logo and its designer Allan Fleming.
    Back in 1960 the CNR – Canadian National Railway Company – decided to freshen up its image. The brilliant and unfortunately short-lived Fleming came up with a logo that instantly conveyed the sense of tracked travel. It was widely emulated by rail companies across North America. Fleming was also responsible for the beautiful Gray Coach Lines logo.
    Lest you think Fleming only created logos for transportation companies, he also designed the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Ontario Hydro logos.

  27. rootlesscosmo says

    Thanks, DCA–I didn’t know that about British railroads. Cars and engines here are usually owned by leasing companies, subsidiaries of the railroads, whose sole function is to rent the equipment back to the railroad: the owner depreciates the equipment, the railroad carries the lease as an expense item, tax happiness ensues.
    Yes, you could do worse than to be called Sanitary Jake. One guy was called Face Down but I heard he had got sober in later years.

  28. Glad to hear it’s “pumping” not “humping”.
    It is indeed, but see hump yard. It’s not uncommon to see “NO HUMPING” stenciled on freight cars. Though it has been claimed that this stands for “New-world Order Helicopter Urban Military Panic Initiation Network Group”, a fine eight-noun nominal compound.
    Mostly, though, it was just a job.
    Mostly, though, any job is just a job. When people asked me what it’s like to work for Google, I replied “It’s a job!”.
    Falsus in unum
    In uno, actually; you wrote “False into the one.” (I don’t mock you; it was I who wrote multo equo ‘with much horse’ for multis equis ‘with many horses’ in a second-year Latin composition.)
    I don’t speak for Hat, of course, but I don’t think there is a such a thing as “over-detailed” on this blog.
    See also “Old Hiram’s Goat” (YouTube; crappy singing, but lyrics included) and “Little Red Caboose” (YouTube).

  29. rootlesscosmo says

    Thanks, John. I’ve been making that mistake–accusative instead of dative?–for years and will try to rewire my memory for the right case.

  30. Your comments are riveting, Rootless.

  31. multis equis ‘with many horses’
    You think that’s bad–I used to imagine that the name of Dos Equis beer had something to do with horses. This in spite of the fact that my first wife was half-Mexican and also in spite of the fact that there are two (count ’em, 2) X’s right there on the label.

  32. I fear I’m monopolizing this thread–if my comments are getting over-detailed, I won’t mind being told so. (Gently, by Hat.)
    Are you kidding? I love this stuff; my comment threads are like post-postgraduate education. And “Sanitary Jake” made me laugh like a fool.

  33. Ogden, you can’t talk about graphic & industrial design and the railroads without also mentioning Raymond Loewy/a>.

  34. you conjured up a REAL railroad man
    I love the first-hand accounts.
    I don’t know why railroadery is so fascinating. Not to everyone, but to so many. Train-spotters, small boys, hobbyists with their miniature landscapes, …
    I picked up a very little bit of lore and history, in a book-larnin’ sort of way, when my son, now 17, was about 5. I had never gone through such a stage as a child–the non-fiction arm of the children’s picture-book industry was still in its infancy then–when I was deeply into dinosaurs, the number of species to learn about was nothing compared to what it was 40 years later–but I digress.
    So with my young son I learned a little about the very first team locomotives, about the different arrangements of wheels and trucks, about engines that have tenders and engines that don’t (this is crucial background for understanding the Thomas the Tank Engine series–it would strain my patience when another adult who hadn’t been really listening called him Thomas the Tank–or referred to a locomotive as a train–but I digress again …)
    Somebody once suggested that the male fascination with identifying kinds of trains, kinds of engines, kinds of automobiles, and so on, represented an evolutionarily valuable trait: you’ve got to know the local animals, for purposes of both hunting and safety.
    Does anybody out there know Michael Innes’s Appleby’s End? I love the opening chapter, in which (this is the point of slight relevance) at one point a steam locomotive is compared with a dinosaur.

  35. mollymooly says

    I wish I was the brakeman
    on a hurtling, fevered train
    crashing headlong into the heartland
    like a cannon in the rain
    with the beating of the sleepers
    and the burning of the coal
    counting the towns flashing by
    in a night that’s full of soul
    I’m not sure Mike Scott was any less vague on railway operations that I am.

  36. rootlesscosmo says

    Thanks–a new one to me. “Sleepers” is also a British usage–they’re “ties” over here.

  37. I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train,
    I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train,
    I’d shine shine my light through cool Colorado rain.

  38. not “shine shine”

  39. “Sleepers” had some early use in American: Thoreau plays off it in one of his mentions of the Fitchburg RR in Walden.
    One of my favorites is that in Italian a steam locomotive is locomotiva while an electric or diesel is locomotore — these (I think) have different genders (and this is the place to find out).

  40. John Emerson says

    Jack Kerouac tried out as brakeman but didn’t like it and didn’t do well. His friend Neil Cassidy was reportedly an excellent brakeman.
    Flann O’Brien goes on at considerable length about steam engines in “For Steam Men” in The Best of Miles.  I have never had the least idea whether what he writes is insider jargon or complete nonsense.

  41. rootlesscosmo says

    @John Emerson:
    Jack Kerouac tried out as brakeman but didn’t like it and didn’t do well. His friend Neil Cassidy was reportedly an excellent brakeman.
    A third member of that group, Al Hinkle (he appears in On the Road as Ed Dunkel) stayed on the railroad and retired after 30-some years. At one point the company promoted him to management but his first assignment was Tucumcari NM and reportedly his wife didn’t like the idea of leaving the Bay Area for rattlesnake country, so he exercised his seniority (as we used to say) and came back to the Peninsula commutes.
    That’s a remarkable fact about Italian, DCA. Locomotiva (pl.locomotive?) would have preceded locomotore (locomotori?) historically; any idea why they got a new name?

  42. While Kerouac never became a real railroader, his essay “Railroad Earth” (available in the anthology “Lonesome Traveller”) gives some interesting descriptions and stories of the last days of steam locomotives on the SP.
    The SP ran oil-fired steam locomotives at this time (there’s no good coal on the west coast), and some of them had the engineer’s cabin in front like the diesels. There’s an example in the railroad museum in Sacramento.

  43. In Kerouac’s account there were three people in the cab when they were running. Obviously in an oil-fired locomotive there’s no need for a fireman. From his description, he didn’t have all that much to do.
    However, as I recall, the locomotive I described in the museum really only had room for two people.
    Going by the song, Casey Jones just had one other crewmember, his fireman, with him. This was in the 1890s, I think.

  44. “NO HUMPING” – these were very transparent in Russian, “С ГОРКИ НЕ СПУСКАТЬ”. The steam-era signposts at the stations approaches seemed a lot mystifying, both of the following sounded almost like “shut the hell up” to my young ear: закрой поддувало & не сифонь

  45. Ogden, you can’t talk about graphic & industrial design and the railroads without also mentioning Raymond Loewy
    Mea culpa.
    I atone by linking to the Napier Deltic engine. I first encountered this baby in the British Science Museum in 1977, where a full-size cutaway engine was on display. Thirty-odd years later I remain impressed.

  46. I’m impressed too.

  47. Very enjoyable page and discussion. I think railroad jargon appeals partly because train travel is so widely loved, even romantic. Nothing quite compares to it, for me.
    Sinker for doughnut: because you sink your teeth into it?

  48. @DCA: One of my favorites is that in Italian a steam locomotive is locomotiva while an electric or diesel is locomotore — these (I think) have different genders (and this is the place to find out).
    In standard formal Italian it’s always a locomotiva (grammatically feminine). Locomotore (masculine) is a usual variant, which, although regarded as a misuse by the pedantic sticklers, is well-attested for steam, diesel and electric locomotives.
    I don’t know of any corpora of Italian that would solve the precedence issue, though, and Google Ngrams doesn’t include Italian.

  49. Sinker for doughnut: because you sink your teeth into it?
    No, because of the habit, (formerly?) prevalent in America, of dunking it into your coffee (hence also the name of a ubiquitous chain, Dunkin’ Donuts).

  50. THE KING
    Rudyard Kipling
    “Farewell, Romance!” the Cave-men said;
    “With bone well carved he went away,
    Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,
    And jasper tips the spear to-day.
    Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,
    And he with these. Farewell, Romance!”
    “Farewell, Romance!” the Lake-folk sighed;
    “We lift the weight of flatling years;
    The caverns of the mountain-side
    Hold him who scorns our hutted piers.
    Lost hills whereby we dare not dwell,
    Guard ye his rest. Romance, farewell!”
    “Farewell, Romance!” the Soldier spoke;
    “By sleight of sword we may not win,
    But scuffle ‘mid uncleanly smoke
    Of arquebus and culverin.
    Honour is lost, and none may tell
    Who paid good blows. Romance, farewell!”
    “Farewell, Romance!” the Traders cried;
    Our keels ha’ lain with every sea;
    The dull-returning wind and tide
    Heave up the wharf where we would be;
    The known and noted breezes swell
    Our trudging sail. Romance, farewell!”
    “Good-bye, Romance!” the Skipper said;
    “He vanished with the coal we burn;
    Our dial marks full steam ahead,
    Our speed is timed to half a turn.
    Sure as the ferried barge we ply
    ‘Twixt port and port. Romance, good-bye!”
    “Romance!” the season-tickets mourn,
    He never ran to catch his train,
    But passed with coach and guard and horn —
    And left the local — late again!”
    Confound Romance! . . . And all unseen
    Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.
    His hand was on the lever laid,
    His oil-can soothed the worrying cranks,
    His whistle waked the snowbound grade,
    His fog-horn cut the reeking Banks;
    By dock and deep and mine and mill
    The Boy-god reckless laboured still!
    Robed, crowned and throned, he wove his spell,
    Where heart-blood beat or hearth-smoke curled,
    With unconsidered miracle,
    Hedged in a backward-gazing world;
    Then taught his chosen bard to say:
    “Our King was with us — yesterday!”

  51. rootlesscosmo says

    Oh, John, that’s very apposite, and I hadn’t read it till now–thanks. (Though I always suspected that guy on the nine-fifteen might be a faun–Red Wing boots with the patented KlovenHuf™) toes, maybe.)

  52. Brian Hillcoat says

    Myles na gCopaleen! thou shouldst be living at this hour. See ‘For Steam Men’, various numbers of the Irish Times, 1937-66.

  53. No, because of the habit […] of dunking it into your coffee
    Thanks, Hat. You know, this occurred to me later, while I was out walking, but in a slightly different sense: I thought of “sinker” as the result of unsuccessful dunking, where a chunk of doughnut would break off and sink to the bottom of the mug.

  54. rootlesscosmo says

    I always thought “sinker” for “donut” was a negative commentary, like “shit on a shingle” for creamed chipped beef on toast, or “horsecock” for “bologna.”

  55. Brian Hillcoat says

    Apologies to John Emerson above, I didn’t notice your mention of Flann O’Brien among the Jack Kerouac stuff. I don’t know whether it’s all nonsense either, but if it is it’s cunningly disguised.

  56. marie-lucie says

    So nice to read firsthand accounts of working on the railroads! Thanks, rootless and others, and LH for starting it.

  57. Do Canadians usually say “railroad” or “railway”? I noticed in Ogden’s post that CNR is the “Canadian National Railway”, but now m-l’s saying “-road”…

  58. Both words appear in the website of Canadian National Railway, also called CN. They seem to have a sort of slogan “North America’s railway” that sometimes appears as “North America’s railroad” instead.

  59. marie-lucie says

    AJP, rail travel in Canada is no longer what it was, and I don’t talk about trains that much in normal circumstances. Also, I am influenced by American vocabulary, so I don’t want to be quoted on what Canadians normally say.
    For a test I just read the Wikipedia article on the “Canadian Pacific Railway” (a company which was established to build the first transcontinental railway in Canada – not to be confused with the “Canadian National Railway”), and without reading too closely or counting the examples I found “railroad” used just once, versus a large number of instances of “railway”. Personally, I think I would be more inclined to use “railway” in a general sense (the company, the lines, etc), and “railroad” for the actual place where trains run, but I can’t swear to it.

  60. marie-lucie is correct that company names in Canada generally used the term “railway”. Yet I have citations from the early 20th century referring erroneously to the “Canadian Pacific Railroad”.
    The Grand Trunk Railway had a US branch called the Grand Trunk Railroad (see Wikipedia for the complicated story).

  61. John Emerson says

    The Soo Line I mentioned above has been absorbed by the Canadians.

  62. Do Canadians usually say “railroad” or “railway”?
    AJP Crowsnest Pass: See here.

  63. marie-lucie says

    Notice the use of rail in this paragraph:
    The Canadian Pacific Railway built a line from Lethbridge, Alberta to Kootenay Landing, British Columbia through the Crowsnest Pass between 1897 and 1898. This line was built primarily to access mineral-rich southeastern BC via an all-Canadian rail route, and to assert Canadian (and CPR) sovereignty in an area that U.S. railroads were beginning to build into.

  64. I remember we did the Kicking Horse Pass, the Crowsnest Pass, the CPR & the CNR in Geography, when I was 13 or so. That would be 45 years ago; too bad I can’t remember the more recent stuff.

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