The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell

Tag: Tube

Thursday, 30th April 2015

An email from TfL about Brixton tube station: ‘The station now has improved ticket machines, offering guidance in 17 languages’.

At last!

Tuesday, 6th January 2015

Oyster, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈɔɪstə/
Etymology: < classical Latin ostrea

1. A costly way to eat.
2. A costly way to travel.

Saturday, 27th December 2014

‘The brevity of the phrase [“mind the gap”] is said to derive from the limitations of solid-state digital recording technology when it was first introduced in the late 1960s’ (Brewer’s Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable). Perhaps now that such limitations no longer exist, TfL could rewrite the message in their customary announcementese: ‘This is a customer service safety update: please be careful of the aperture between the threshold of the straight-carriaged train and the curving edge of the platform. Thank you for travelling with London Underground. Have a nice day.’ etc., etc.

Wednesday, 3rd December 2014

I noted the other day that King’s Cross should have an apostrophe but is sometimes written without one. Apparently, the opposite is true of Earls Court, rendered Earl’s Court on Underground signage.

The hamlet grew up around the manor house of the Earls of Oxford, lords of the manor of Kensington from the time of Domesday Book until the 16th century (A Dictionary of London Place-Names).

My point is that there was one George IV and multiple earls of Oxford. Earls Court is a less cut and dried case, but the place name is not generally written with an apostrophe. And the name of the tube station didn’t have an one till it was made apostrophal in 1951. This could make Earl’s Court the most exalted example ever of the greengrocer’s apostrophe, roundelled to immortality.

Friday, 28th November 2014

If I never hear one again, I won’t miss the announcements on the tube that say, ‘Customer service update: there is a good service on all London Underground lines.’ For a start, they invent a real problem by seeking to remedy one that doesn’t exist: if there are no closures or delays then no announcement is necessary – an update in this sense must contain ‘New information received or supplied’ (OED) – unless of course contentless good-news “updates” have been normalised, meaning that people start to worry if they haven’t heard one.

I’ve said before that customer is not the best word to describe a person on a train. By the same token, customer service is the ‘assistance and advice provided by a company’ (COD); and as company-like as these vacuous boasts may be, London Underground remains a wholly-owned subsidiary of Transport for London, itself an arm of local government. Local government does not (or ought not) issue customer service updates.

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