Although this blog's name is inspired by Sauti Kubwa ("Big Voice"), the late lead singer of Rumba Japan, a band that played in Nairobi in the early years of this century, it won't focus unduly on Swahili nicknames, rumba music or indeed any other African issues.


Sunday, 27 June 2010

Preposition abuse

Two irritating developments in British life over the past two decades are connected.

The first is public address systems on public transport. We seemed to manage OK without them. Passengers travelling to an unfamiliar destination would acquaint themselves with the scheduled time of arrival, so as to avoid missing it, and perhaps also note the identity of the immediate prior station, so as to be prepared.

Today, I begin all rail journeys in a state of linguistic depression, given that, by necessity, they must start at what are now called "train stations".

And I know that even a relatively short journey on lines where there a number of stops will be punctuated by repetitive automatic announcements after each station:
  • Welcoming "customers" (groan) "on board" (groan) "this train operated by blah-blah company" (who cares?).

  • Informing us of the ultimate destination and all of the intervening stops (potentially useful information, but maddening after the umpteenth repetition).

  • Telling us to read blah-blah company's safety instructions.

  • Instructing us on what not to do, e.g. don't play music too loud (routinely ignored by the oafs and sluts who engage in such behaviour).

The only merit of these pre-recorded announcements is that, being standardized and repetitive, the brain can easily recognise them as soon as they start, so as to ignore them.

More troublesome is the ad hoc use of the PA by the "train service manager". Invariably, these contain at least two horrors.

The first will be the announcement of our next "station stop". When did this brainless word-redundancy become ubiquitous? Should the TSM ever be within range of me when next saying it, I will ask: "As you find it essential to tell me the next 'station stop', for completeness I also require you to state when we will next stop where there is no station, and when we will next pass a station without stopping."

The second fatuity will be one or more incidents of preposition abuse. We will be told to be careful "when stepping off of the train". If one is on the tube, there will be an instruction to "move right inside of the car".

When prepositions are not being added to needlessly, they will be misused. The train will not arrive at but into Paddington (which, as it is "our final station stop", all "customers" must be thanked for travelling with blah-blah company, asked to be careful to remove all their belongings from "inside of" the train and urged to exercise caution in "stepping off of" it).

My guess is that TSMs think that using into makes them sound like an airline captain ("good news folks - we'll be arriving into JFK an hour early"), and therefore raises their banal witterings about suburban train movements to a more sophisticated level.

But what is the explanation for preposition abuse in Britain? We normally follow American trends, yet given the chance they eliminate prepositions (they have a similar attitude to auxiliary verbs). Illogically, we still find their "write me" odd although we've happily adopted "call me".

1 comment:

  1. I always assumed "station stop" was to prevent you falling down an embankment when they stop at a red signal. If indeed they ever do these days. Not that you can open the doors anyway... given the chance, I'd rather be in a traffic jam listening to a CD of Balogh Kalman.