Friday, June 30, 2006

ENG Joke- Why Specs Live Forever

The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.
  • gauge n. 標準規格、標準尺寸
  • exceedingly adv. 極度地=extremely
  • expatriate n. 移民國外者、被流放(國外)者
    • v. 1.流放 2.使放棄原國籍、使移居國外
    • adj. 被流放(國外)的、移居國外的
Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
  • tramway n. 電車軌道
Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
  • jig n. 裝配架
Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts.
  • rut
    • n.
      • 車槽、凹痕
      • 老規矩、慣例、常規
    • v. 在...挖槽、在...形成車轍
    • n. (雄鹿、雄羊等的)發情、發情期 be in the rut
    • v. 發情
So who built these old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
  • legion
    • n.
      • 古羅馬軍團
      • 軍隊、部隊
      • 眾多、大量 a legion of admirers
    • adj. 眾多的、大量的
  • chariot n. 雙輪戰車
Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. Specs and Bureaucracies live forever.

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's rear came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.

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