Friday, 12 February 2010

Circumlocutory Collocations: The Dot Matrix Train Describer Board

The sign at Monument station on my way home last night said this:
Because of a failure the Dot Matrix Train Describer Board is showing incorrect information. Please check the front of the train for its correct destination.
This sign annoyed me for two reasons. First: "Because of a failure". That's right up there with "due to a delay, the train on platform 6 is running late". Thanks, but if you're just going to give a contentless explanation for the failure, why give any explanation at all?

Second, "Dot Matrix Train Describer Board". It genuinely took me a good few seconds to realise what the sign was talking about. I've simply never heard of a "Dot Matrix Train Describer Board" - and I'm not sure why I need to, surely they could have written the sign in English, rather than jargonese?

This sign was handwritten. Someone actually went to the trouble of writing out "Dot Matrix Train Describer Board" (I'm getting bored, and I've only had to type it). It's a sort of anti-nerdview. Whoever wrote the sign almost certainly wasn't aware that "Dot Matrix" refers simply to the fact that the board is pixellated, or that "Train Describer Board" is a horrible circumlocution. They probably thought Dot Matrix was a brand name (that's the only feasible reason I can think of why someone would bother to include it: feel free to suggest others).

The thing is, this must happen *all the time* - could TFL not have a generally accepted plain English phrase for referring to "Dot Matrix Train Describer Boards"? "Information Screens"? "Platform Displays"? Surely there's *something* better than "Dot Matrix Train Describer Board"?

1 comment:

Andy said...

I think they should be called "Overhead controlled illumination lowdown dispensers"