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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 3, 2006 is:
cowcatcher \KOW-ketch-er\ noun
: an inclined frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for throwing obstacles off the track
For his entry in the town parade, John outfitted his black truck with a cowcatcher and smoke stack to resemble a 19th-century locomotive.
Did you know?
New Jersey's Camden and Amboy Railroad was the first in the U.S. to adopt the cowcatcher, adding it to its John Bull locomotive in the early 1830s. But, as the Model Railroader Cyclopedia warned, "don't ever let a railroad man hear you use 'cowcatcher.'" In its heyday, railroad workers preferred the name "pilot" for that v-shaped frame which, aside from pushing aside obstacles, helped to guide the train around curves. In the 1940s and '50s "cowcatcher" jumped the tracks and took on a new life in TV and radio advertising jargon. The term was used for a commercial that was aired immediately before a program and that advertised a secondary product of the program's sponsor. Such ads apparently got the name because they "went in front."