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Notes from underground

Misusing language is practically company policy on the tube. Staff may know what "severe delays" means, but there's no way they're telling the public

By Dan Kuper   September 2006

The underground has an incredible repertoire of stock phrases. More or less the entire history of the world can be boiled down and written on one of those whiteboards you see at the entrance to tube stations. Each one of these phrases, such as “passenger action” or “severe delays,” has—or at least is supposed to have—a fairly exact meaning. But the public tends to have completely the wrong idea about what that meaning is.

“Passenger action,” for example, is supposed to mean “someone has pulled the emergency cord” but it is pressed into service to describe more or less anything…

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