train metaphors

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Senior Member
Hello, can anybody explain the meaning of "train metaphors" in the context below:
Irene looked at her son. There was so much promise there -such an extraordinary level of ability - and she would not let her project for him be derailed. She stopped herself; train metaphors were not what she wanted here.
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    A metaphor is "a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them" (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

    In the thoughts that Irene has about her son she uses the word "derailed" which means to throw off a track, and therefore stop as a train would be if it came off its rails.

    In fact derailed is NOT used exclusively for trains, it is often used for plans of any sort that become stalled and it is not 100% certain to me that we'd call that use metaphoric anymore.


    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    In literal situations, a train might be derailed. Saying a project is "derailed" is a figurative use of language-- i.e., a metaphor. Another train metaphor is "don't blow your stack!" It means don't lose your temper.

    Also "I don't give a hoot." As the engineer, you're supposed to make use of your steam whistle to let people know you're on the way, or to let your passengers know you're about to stop (out in the middle of nowhere, because there are passengers and a pile of luggage beside the track, and you are about to make a "whistle stop." If you have an indifferent attitude, you just jam to a stop without caring whether your passengers get a jolt-- you don't care enough to give a hoot.

    So to call a small town out in the middle of nowhere a "whistle stop" is to use a train metaphor.

    Someone who is charging along with a lot of momentum is said to have "a full head of steam." Of course with train metaphors there is some overlap with other conveyances that used steam locomotion.

    . 1

    Australian Australia
    May I guess that the mother was avoiding train metaphors due to the fact that a train derailment usually results in a train wreck which is not what she wished for her son.



    UK, English
    Oh dear. My interpretation probably says more about the state of my mind than Irene's ...

    I think Irene wants to stop using train metaphors becuase she is disturbed by the Freudian symbolism.
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