A Train Accident

A Train Accident

train accident

New Idioms are “Overnight bag” and “On the hook.” The Grammar focus is on Negation and Past Participles.

Ricci: “I want a ticket to Philadelphia, please.”
Maisha: “Sure, honey, just the one?”
Ricci: “Yep, just me.”
Maisha: “Anything to declare?”
Ricci: “No, I’m not carrying anything except an overnight bag.”
Maisha: “Do you want any kind of insurance?”
Ricci: “No, nothing bad happening today.”
Maisha: “OK then, here’s your total, how are you paying?”
Ricci: “Visa.”
Maisha: “Modern world. Not so much cash any more.”
Ricci: I guess not.”


Declare means to proclaim or make a full statement (of dutiable goods, for example). See online Dictionary.
Overnight bag means a small piece of luggage used to carry items needed for an overnight stay. See online Idioms Dictionary.
I guess not means a vague statement of negation. More polite or gentle than simply saying “No.” See online Idioms Dictionary.

Suggested Topic for Comments: Negation

“I guess not.” This form of negation is unusual, with the negative particle coming after a verb other than be. Otherwise since 1800 it has become obligatory to use the do auxiliary, e.g. “I do not travel” instead of “I travel not,” or “I do not guess” instead of “I guess not.”

“Nothing bad happening today.” In conversational English, the “rules” are optional, e.g. every sentence must have a subject and a verb. Informal speech is just that — people say whatever they want to say, and grammar violations are common.


New Idioms are “On the hook” and “Presence of mind.” The Grammar focuses on Past Participles.

Baldwin: “Have you heard about this train accident?”
Percy: “Yes, in Ohio. That’s bad — what did they spill?”
Baldwin: “Vinyl Chloride was the worst thing. But that’s not all, there were five chemicals.”
Percy: “They burned them, too, a controlled burn.”
Baldwin: “Yes, I read about that.”
Percy: “That was really dangerous for people nearby.”
Baldwin: “Apparently there are many lawsuits against the railroad.”
Percy: “Of course. Cancer is only one possible outcome.”
Baldwin: “If they had electronic braking systems, this might not have happened.”
Percy: “They passed a law to retrofit trains carrying toxic substances, but lobbyists got the law rescinded. They complained it was too costly for rail companies.”
Baldwin: “Well, they’re on the hook for it now. Should have had the presence of mind to install them.”


On the hook means held responsible for something. See online Idioms Dictionary.
Presence of mind means the ability to act sensibly, promptly, and appropriately, especially in a difficult situation or emergency. See online Idioms Dictionary.

Suggested Topic for Comments: Past Participles

“It was a controlled burn.” Here we have an instance of a Past Participle used adjectivally (Present Participles can also be used as adjectives).

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