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Mind the gap? London tube wins ‘Bad Grammar Award’

Transport for London won the dubious honour for at least five examples of what the organisers called its “shoddy English”.

world Updated: Nov 10, 2017 23:08 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Bad Grammar Award,London tube,Transport for London
Passengers pose for a photograph as they wait for the Night Tube train service at Oxford Circus on the London underground system.(REUTERS FILE)

The silly season has come and gone, but there is still time for another quirky British award: the winner of this year’s ‘Bad Grammar Award’ has gone to Transport for London (TfL), the body that runs the tube and other travel networks in the capital.

The award, instituted by an academy associated with the Idler magazine to highlight “the incorrect use of English by people and institutions who should know better”, was decided by a panel of judges that included television host Jeremy Paxman, known for his challenging and at times hostile interviews with politicians.

The shortlist included tweets by Ivanka Trump,daughter of US President Donald Trump, superstore Tesco, the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, the Metropolitan Police and the mission statement of Facebook.

But TfL won the dubious honour for at least five examples of what the organisers called its “shoddy English”.

“‘All the doors in this carriage will not open at the next station:’ That is misleading and wrong,” said Helen Hawkins, one of the judges. “It should simply say ‘Not all the doors in this carriage will open at the next station.’”

Another TfL error: “Spotting a ticket inspector is easy. They look just like you!” Hawkins said: “They’ve got their plurals and singles mixed up. They should have written ‘spotting ticket inspectors is easy.’”

There were more examples. “If you are feeling unwell get off the train and speak to a member of staff who will assist you.”

The organisers said: “So really, don’t bother trying to talk to the ones who won’t, though good luck working out which are which. This could easily be put right. What about ‘and ask a member of staff for assistance’? Or how about inserting a comma after ‘staff’?”

“Only use the alarm to alert the driver in an emergency. The train will continue to the next station where assistance will be available.”

“Again there is a missing comma after ‘station’. In its current state, this sentence means that the train will continue to station after station until it finds one where assistance is available,” the organisers added.

And finally: “Take care and attention as you board and alight the train.” Hawkins said: “You can’t ‘take attention’ - unidiomatic. And ‘alight’ is not a transitive verb; it has to be followed by a preposition. So for sheer quantity and lack of linguistic quality, the award this year goes to TfL”.

Besides Paxman and Hawkins, other judges for this year’s award were Virginia Ironside, Beatrix Macintyre, Victoria Hull and Tom Hodgkinson.

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 22:06 IST