One had long harboured the naive belief that language is a means of communication, its objective being the carrying of a message from party ‘A’ to party ‘B’. Especially in matters of customer service. But that is not the conclusion you would draw from listening to various announcements at airports and on board aircraft.
Let us begin with what is probably the most common announcement we hear in the departure lounge. The announcer informs us that the delay in the outbound flight is due to the delayed arrival of an incoming flight. The explanation for a delay being another delay. Circular logic?
But logic is the least of the announcer’s concerns, as she focuses on her accent. I think it was Kingfisher Airlines that introduced the term “guest” to refer to passengers. This has led other airlines to also referring to their “patrons” (to add another unnecessary term to the verbal mulligatawny soup) with special terms: “atithi” (guest in Hindi), “customers”, “SpiceJetters” and once in a while, “passengers”. Sometimes all of these terms being used in a single sentence.
Things don’t improve even after you are on board. The announcement starts talking to “deviyon aur sajjanon” as the confused parties look around to see who is being addressed. By the time you figure out that she means you, the announcer is ready with her next salvo. So you are instructed to deal with your “kursi ki peti”. In quick succession is the admonition to switch off electronic equipment, because it can do “hastakshep” with the navigation equipment of the aircraft.
As you get airborne, you are told to “keep your mobile phones in the power off mode.” Would it be too pedestrian to ask air travellers to just “keep mobile phones switched off”? And then you are informed that you can amuse yourself with in-flight entertainment, since there is “atyadhunik manoranjan ka prabandh” on board.
Eventually, you fall asleep. When you land, you are welcomed to the “antar-deshiya” terminal of the XYZ antar-rashtriya airport in one more assault of linguistic bombast. If you need help, you’ll have to talk to the “sthal karmi dal” of the airline. Of course, provided you can identify whether it is a set of persons, a kiosk or a vending machine.
I’ll let you in on the secret: announcements are meant to help the announcers exercise their lungs. Any other effect is unintentional, for which woh “kshama chahte hain.”
The writer is co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy