Friday, November 16, 2007

We shall alight no more

A sad day. Not a tragic day. Just a minor, quotidian, trivially sad one.

I noted only a week or two ago how delightful it was that the train companies keep alive the term 'alight' in the sense of 'you cannot alight from the rear four coaches as this station has a short platform.' And they used to do it on the tube too: 'Alight here for Buckingham Palace'.

But yesterday, I noticed for the first time, the word 'alight' in the automated announcements has been crudely substituted with 'exit'. Why? To discourage confused potential arsonists? Because tourists didn't understand? (frankly, any verb would do in the context. 'Eviscerate here for Buckingham Palace' - they'd still get the message).

No, it's just another tiny, pointless, chip in the war of attrition against the beauty and diversity of the English language. Why have a dozen fascinating, subtly different words when one simple multi-purpose bludgeon will do? Makes learning the language so much easier, don't you know. And so much less worthwhile.

But on a cheerier note, here are some things I like about the tube.
1. Most of the time it works, magically whisking you around in a secret netherworld so that you emerge dazed and blinking into completely new and unexpected places.
2. The spontaneous efficiency with which people get on and off, in an example of anarchism at its best. Usually.
3. The fact that in this safety obsessed world, hundreds of thousands of people are permitted - nay, required - to stand within a body's length of god (or TfL) knows how many thousands of volts, and within INCHES of very fast moving objects, with people crowded a dozen deep behind them. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. Every day. And hardly anybody, ever, gets hurt. (And when they do, it's usually because they meant to.) Now that puts locks into perspective.


Anonymous said...

On the Main Line and the Goods Siding
The grass grows high
At Dog Dyke, Tumby Woodside
And Trouble House Halt.
The Sleepers sleep at Audlem and Ambergate.
No passenger waits on Chittening platform or Cheslyn Hay.
No one departs, no one arrives
From Selby to Goole, from St Erth to St Ives.
They’ve all passed out of our lives
On the slow train
On the slow train.

Anonymous said...

Ssh, Sarah! Or they'll erect barriers on the platforms like at some stations on the DLR!

S said...

I have to admit that on the way back last night they'd reverted to the old announcements, though I don't suppose it was on my account, and I don't suppose it will last. The new ones incorporate changing for the 'London Overground', and if you want University College Hospital you'll have to know where it is for yourself, as they no longer tell you at Warren Street.