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For the past few years, I have been hearing people say "that tracks," meaning "that makes sense." My search on Green's Dictionary of Slang yielded nothing with this clear meaning, but I've found a lot of example usages by searching Google for terms like "that tracks because" or "which tracks because":

Flashback time again: Jeremiah is extremely upset about the Belly-Conrad thing, which tracks because if a girl I loved dated my brother instead, I would go insane.

Apiros isn’t a typical gym, which tracks because Austin Einhorn isn’t a typical trainer.

I have not found a relevant definition in publicly available dictionaries like Merriam-Webster.

What is the origin of this expression, and how old is it?

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    The word tracks is synonymous with follows in that sense. Commented Jun 15 at 11:19
  • The first definition in the OED is "follow'
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18 at 11:53

3 Answers 3

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The sense of "to make sense" of the verb track goes back to 1924 in written usage per OED. Here is the definition and the first citation from OED:

intransitive. To be consistent with something (such as other information, expectations, prior experience, etc.); to fit; to make sense. colloquial (originally U.S.).

1924 I have carefully read the address... Upon all democratic questions, it tracks with established democratic policies..and is perfectly sound.
Sedalia (Missouri) Democrat 12 August 8/3

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “track (v.1), additional sense,” March 2024,
https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/7856344720.

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    +1 for a high-quality source, but I don’t think this shows that the “make sense” usage goes back to 1924 as you suggest. The 1924 example is the form “X tracks with Y”, i.e. the sense “to be consistent with” — it doesn’t imply that the with-less form “X tracks” = “X makes sense” was in use by that date. (Like others’ here, my intuition is that this usage is a later development from the “X tracks with Y” form — but of course, intuition is cheap, a corroborating source is what’s needed!)
    – PLL
    Commented Jun 16 at 10:46
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    @PLL you're looking for a difference that doesn't exist. "makes sense" is just "tracks with common sense". every single word/phrase in English is used constantly with such breadth of meaning. (in this field of meaning, think of cohesive, sensible, sound, solid, effective etc etc) Even in the example dug up in this excellent answer, the writer puts it with "perfectly sound"; it's all the same.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18 at 11:45
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In my view, this is a figurative extension of the phrase "to track with X" which means "to follow along with X wherever X may go (remaining aligned with X)". It is used of trailers which are pulled by a truck or tractor. The trailers are said to "track with" the tractor or the truck. It seems rather like a calque on "to comport".

DIFFERING from other types of semi trailers, the trailer produced by the Trailer Transportation Co., New York City, is the first commercial design in practice which tracks with the pulling truck or tractor.
The Commercial Vehicle, April 1915.

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    Interesting example from 1915. In this instance, "tracks with" may literally mean "follows in the same tire tracks as"—presumably because the trailer's axle is exactly the same length side to side as the truck or tractor's axles—but it would certainly provide a good starting point for "tracks with" in the figurative sense of "follows [from]."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jun 15 at 22:44
  • From books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 17 at 1:21
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    The above (The Country Gentleman, July 15, 1901, in a column for advice from a veterinarian) has HIND LEG LAME . . .Does not step as far with that leg as with the other, and drags it slightly; does not “track” with the forward one, but swings it a little to the left. . .
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 17 at 1:27
  • …The farmer is searching for a metaphor. A common use of “track” in the previous 50 years is railroad track, which is what I think is the origin of a likely spontaneous use.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 17 at 1:45
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The Free Dictionary has this meaning of track as an idiom:

track

informal To be in agreement or accordance (with something); to concur with or corroborate some piece of information.

Usually used in negative constructions.

Her testimony doesn't track with the defendant's alibi.

The two sets of figures just don't track. I suspect they're trying to make their sales numbers look more impressive for their shareholders.

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/tracked+with

It’s interesting that the OED picks up this meaning as filmmaking becomes a profession. A “tracking shot”, of which there are several kinds, is a shot used in filming—one that follows or moves with the subject. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracking_shot

This is quite different from the use of tracking related to keeping track of the location or actions of an animal or a person, whether physically or digitally, or even uses metaphorically like right track or wrong, on track or off, which predate movie-making by hundreds of years.

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