English as she isn't spoke, part 3
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
Is it time for an update on station announcements? If the rail companies ran a faultless service in Britain the announcers would have an easy job of it. Sadly, this is very far from being the case, and announcers have to devise ever more baroquely phrased explanations for delays and cancellations. I know I’ve written about this subject more than once before but, to a captive auditor it’s a gift that keeps on giving or, as the announcer would no doubt have it, a donation that continues to donate.
I’m convinced that the English language is being stretched in new and unpredictable ways across station concourses up and down the land. And not necessarily in a good way.
“Please be advised that this train will now be subject to a platform alteration and will depart from Platform . . .” is a common one. Does it sound like standard English to you? No, nor me. How about “This train will now be departing from Platform . . . ”? Clearer, more concise and gets rid of the redundant genteelism “please be advised . . .".
“In reaction to” has become linguistic orthodoxy too. As in: “This is in reaction to overrunning improvement in the St Albans area”, or “This is in reaction to an earlier cable fire in the Vauxhall area” (incidentally, how do cables catch fire?).
Then there are the deliberately unclear announcements, such as “Due to conductor shortages [as in food shortages?], some services may be altered”. For “altered” I sense they mean “cancelled”. “This is due to a currently unidentified reason which is under investigation”, meanwhile, just sounds mysterious.
“Short formation” has also become standard phrasing: “We are sorry for the short formation of this train”. Or “This service is short-form this morning, and the first-class accommodation has been declassified” (like an official document?). On other occasions, we are informed that “First class has not been declassified”. In other words, if you are travelling in first class without a first-class ticket, you will be liable to a penalty fare payable to the “on-board Revenue Protection Officer”.
I continue to enjoy announcers’ use of the word “accommodation”. We are often told “We are sorry to inform you that there is no first-class accommodation on this service today”, as if it’s the Orient Express steaming its stately way across the Continent rather than a humdrum commuter train out of London.
“Please note that this service has been reported as full and standing only”: it’s always good to get an advance report on the train you’re about to board. Adds a frisson to the experience. “The service on Platform 2 is the replatformed service for London Bridge”. Replatformed? It’s a new one on me. “The 8:34, originally due to depart from Platform 4 . . .". Strange use of “originally”, or am I being over-pedantic? It’s hard not to be as the delays and cancellations pile up.