June 23, 2009

Further adventures in word choice

So by now you've no doubt heard about this. Let me just say that I hope that any of you who travel the Red Line are all right, as are your friends and family. I'm an Orange Line guy myself, so I heard about it after I got home.

But it's national news. 7 dead, scores injured. Large-scale activities by rescue personnel, using heavy equipment to move through the wreckage. The true scope of the damage still undetermined, not to mention the unanswered question of how this happened in the first place.

And on my way in this morning, the sagacious disembodied voice of the Metro system suggested that I might be delayed in my travels this morning due to a "disturbance" on the Red Line.

A disturbance. That was the exact word.

For the record: I'm a rational adult. I can handle the maddeningly vague language in most cases. I can grin and bear the grotesque distortion they've made of the word "momentarily" and the condescension of thanking me for my patience while I'm stuck in an underground tunnel between stations. I can even grit my teeth as the Metro Lady switches to her mean voice and sternly tells me, sans "please" mind you, to STAND CLEAR OF THE DOORS. Because clearly, in a packed afternoon metro train on a 90-degree day, I need to be barked at by a fucking Tandy 1000 on wheels.

But "disturbance"? Are you kidding me? Seven people died, and you can't even scare up the decency to call it an accident? As if there's anyone riding the train at this point who doesn't know about it, especially since just about every single person who lives near the greater DC metro system got a call yesterday from some friend or relative to see if they're okay?

Of all the ridiculous bullshit. Just when you think that WMATA, whose manager apparently won some kind of award recently (I would imagine, or at least hope, that it was for Understating Euphemism of the Year, but I doubt they're that self-aware), can't show any less regard for the people who keep them in business, they set the bar so very, aggravatingly much lower.

I'm pissed. I'm disgusted.

I am, dare I say it, "disturbed."

Fuck you, Metro. Or, in a translation worthy of your PR people:

Thank you for your service.


Jo said...

Yuck. That is not the best choice of term. The death toll is up to nine now. :(

Speaking of "momentarily", that term is used differently in England than here. We use it to mean "in a moment" and they use it to mean "for a moment". So imagine their surprise when the pilot says "We'll be landing momentarily!"

Lemmonex said...

Yep...thought the same thing. Call it what is...an accident.

It is way more than a disruption to 9 families in this city.

Dagny Taggart said...

Well, the lawyer in me has to wonder if they're using the word "disturbance" because it has not yet been concluded that it was, in fact, accidental.

But "disturbance"... I dunno. "Collision" could have worked, I think, if they're trying to avoid sensationalizing it.

Brian said...

Jo - That's good, I like that. The m-word has lost all meaning for me at this point. And somehow, they keep using it, like we all can't see right through it anyway.

Lem - Hm. Now that you mention it, it might have been "distruption." No less galling, really, but you might be right.

DT - They're willing to tell you when there's a sick passenger, or even when a passenger gets hit by a train, so I'm baffled as to why they try to gloss this over. I hear you on the "accident" thing, though. It's just one more tick in the "WMATA Ineptitude" column for me...

carrie m said...

I heard "situation" this morning and it kind of annoyed me, but I got to thinking about it and thought, well what else would they call it?

However, disturbance is not an option.

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