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See also railroads; ships; travel.

a mania for being in vehicles.
an abnormal fear of being in or riding in vehicles.
the study of unusual and distinctive licence plate numbers.
Obsolete, carriage; the act of conveying.
an abnormal fear of vehicles.
the study of motor buses.
a system of transportation in which cars or gondolas, usually powered by electricity, are suspended below wire cables.
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.




  1. Beechcraft Twin [airplane] … its wings flapping hectically like a fat squawking goose unable to get itself aloft —Herbert Lieberman
  2. Brakes squawk like Donald Duck —Joyce Cary
  3. The bus rode on the highway, like a ship upon the sea, rising and falling on hills that were like waves —Nathan Asch
  4. Buzz of traffic … like the hum of bees working a field of newly blossomed clover —James Crumley
  5. Car accelerated silently like a lioness which has sighted the prey —Elizabeth Spencer
  6. A car is just like a gun. In the wrong hands it is nothing less than an instrument of death —Charles Portis
  7. Car … ran as if lubricated with peanut butter —Peter De Vries
  8. Cars shot by like large bees —Cynthia Ozick
  9. Cars … their taillights like cigarette embers —Daphne Merkin
  10. The cloud of exhaust [from car] rose like a sail behind them —Alice Mc Dermott
  11. The engines [of a Mercedes] ticking like wizard-made toy millipedes —Saul Bellow
  12. The exhaust [of car] bloomed in the air like a bizarre, blue-white flower —William Dieter
  13. Felt about cars the way Casanova felt about women —Mike Fredman
  14. Guzzles gas the way computers gobble up bytes —Anon
  15. Headlights [of cars on highway] flash by like a procession of candles —Stuart Dybek
  16. Like a wasp rising from a rose, a helicopter chut-chut-chutted toward them —Will Weaver
  17. The limousine slid to the curb and nestled there, sleek as a wet otter stretched out in the noonday sun —Paige Mitchell
  18. The … limousine slid up to the curb, like a great, rolling onyx —Hortense Calisher
  19. The motor [of car engine] sounded like a polishing drum with a dozen new agates turning inside —Will Weaver
  20. Parked cars … stretched like a file of shiny beetles —Donald MacKenzie
  21. Planes humming across the sky like bees —H. E. Bates
  22. [A car] polished until light glanced off it like a knife —Jayne Anne Phillips
  23. The power of the big tractor drew the plow through the damp earth like a potter’s knife through wet clay —Will Weaver
  24. A Rolls Royce glittering like a silver tureen —Saul Bellow
  25. The rumbles of the big diesel engine were like ocean surf —Will Weaver
  26. A ship … its masts jabbing the sky like upended toothpicks —Francis King
  27. (The bus) spews out fumes black and substantial as octopus oil —W. P. Kinsella
  28. Square black automobiles … like glossy black beetles —Robert Silverberg
  29. Taillights [of car] gleaming like malevolent eyes —Stanley Elkin
  30. Taillights red as smudged roses —Richard Ford
  31. Tires humming like inflated snakes —John Hawkes
  32. Tractors [at night] … like neon tetras drifting in the dark tank of the fields —Will Weaver
  33. Train … wriggling like some long snake —Natsume Soseki
  34. The windshield wipers [of the car] kicked like a weary dance team —Elizabeth Spencer
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



Black Maria A van for conveying prisoners. This U.S. colloquial term reputedly derives from a Black woman named Maria Lee who ran a lodging house for sailors in Boston. Apparently she was a prodigious woman whom the police called on when they needed extra strength to handle rambunctious prisoners. Eventually her name became associated with the van which rounded up prisoners and carried them to jail or court.

A new Black Maria, … a new wagon for the conveyance of prisoners to and from the courts of justice. (Boston Evening Traveller, September 25, 1847)

bone-shaker A facetious name for early model bicycles; later applied to similarly unsteady automobiles such as the early model Fords. Since the first bicycles lacked rubber tires and other modern cushioning conveniences and few roads were paved, their ride was something less than smooth and comfortable. The term was in use as early as 1874.

bucket of bolts An irreverent American slang term for an old run-down car that rattles and shakes noisily when moving, producing a sound similar to the rattling of a bucketful of bolts or screws.

meat wagon An ambulance. This slang expression alludes to the damaged human flesh transported to hospitals in these emergency vehicles.

We’ll need a couple of meatwagons. The minister and two other people were killed and … there’re a lot of injured. (E. McBain, Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here, 1971)

This expression often includes both paddy wagons and hearses.

paddy wagon A patrol wagon; an enclosed truck or van used by the police to transport prisoners; a Black Maria. Paddy, a corruption of the common Irish name Patrick, was once used as a nickname for anyone of Irish descent. Since many police officers in major cities at the turn of the century were Irish, their patrol wagons came to be known as paddy wagons by association. Although the ethnic implications were gradually lost after the 1920s, the expression has remained in widespread use.

Police who attempted to enforce city segregation rules met with a torrent of jeers, and several tennis players who sat down on the courts had to be carried to paddy wagons. (Aurora [Illinois] Beacon News, November 7, 1948)

panda car A police car. This British colloquialism undoubtedly alludes to the appearance of English police cars: small, white vehicles with a broad horizontal blue stripe along the middle.

rattletrap A rickety old car that rattles and clatters and shakes while in motion; a dangerously dilapidated vehicle.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
He looked with disdain at the endless confused mass of detachments, carts, guns, artillery, and again baggage wagons and vehicles of all kinds overtaking one another and blocking the muddy road, three and sometimes four abreast.
And now a matter of some difficulty arose; and this was how his lordship himself should be conveyed; for though in stage-coaches, where passengers are properly considered as so much luggage, the ingenious coachman stows half a dozen with perfect ease into the place of four; for well he contrives that the fat hostess, or well-fed alderman, may take up no more room than the slim miss, or taper master; it being the nature of guts, when well squeezed, to give way, and to lie in a narrow compass; yet in these vehicles, which are called, for distinction's sake, gentlemen's coaches, though they are often larger than the others, this method of packing is never attempted.
Twice the long hands of the clocks went round, Royalties thinned from their al fresco thrones, and buzzed or clattered away in their vehicles of state.
He ordered his cooks and butlers, who were already prepared, to give me victuals and drink, which they pushed forward in a sort of vehicles upon wheels, till I could reach them.
The harvest of the first year of our possession had long been passed, and the fading foliage of a few scattered trees was already beginning to exhibit the hues and tints of autumn, when a train of wagons issued from the bed of a dry rivulet, to pursue its course across the undulating surface, of what, in the language of the country of which we write, is called a "rolling prairie." The vehicles, loaded with household goods and implements of husbandry, the few straggling sheep and cattle that were herded in the rear, and the rugged appearance and careless mien of the sturdy men who loitered at the sides of the lingering teams, united to announce a band of emigrants seeking for the Elderado of the West.
His head came scarcely above the back of the little vehicle, his hands and body were motionless.
On the completion of the Columbiad the public interest centered in the projectile itself, the vehicle which was destined to carry the three hardy adventurers into space.
Fogg examined a curious vehicle, a kind of frame on two long beams, a little raised in front like the runners of a sledge, and upon which there was room for five or six persons.
They followed the way till they reached the beginning of the ascent, on the crest of which the vehicle from Trantridge was to receive her, this limit having been fixed to save the horse the labour of the last slope.
On the third morning after their arrival, just as all the clocks in the city were striking nine individually, and somewhere about nine hundred and ninety-nine collectively, Sam was taking the air in George Yard, when a queer sort of fresh-painted vehicle drove up, out of which there jumped with great agility, throwing the reins to a stout man who sat beside him, a queer sort of gentleman, who seemed made for the vehicle, and the vehicle for him.
The paper he crammed into the pocket of his light yellow dust-coat, and extended his hand as if to assist some one else from the vehicle. To the surprise of the two old ladies, however, the only thing which his open palm received was a violent slap, and a tall lady bounded unassisted out of the cab.
The woman had paid but passing attention to the vehicle, merely noting that it discharged no passenger, but stood at the kerb with the motor running as though waiting for a fare from the residence before which it had stopped.

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