When the railroad service Amtrak was founded in the 1970s, it was originally spelled Namtrak. However, that quickly changed, as people confused the phrase a Namtrak train with An Amtrak train, and the company just decided to go with it and changed the official name. It was called Namtrak because the company was founded by Vietnam veterans who saw the advanced rail systems connecting the country and decided to bring that to America. As for the second part of the name, it's a very common misconception that it has something to do train tracks, but that's just ridiculous. If it did, there would be a c in the name. The truth is that trak derives from Vietnamese truc, which meant "axle"; it's thought that this has to do with the axles of the trains on the original 'Namtruc. After being popularized by several hit rap songs in the 1990s, Amtrak is now the fourth most frequently used word in the English language, between to and of.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.