megaphone-outline-mdDavid Marsh of the Guardian’s ‘Mind your Language’ blog was interviewed on the radio yesterday (13 March, Today, Radio 4) about the distinctive language used on trains and at stations. As a variety of English, Railspeak has its own vocabulary and syntax. Some of the key features Marsh identifies are:

  • the use of unexpected prepositions: we will be arriving into Didcot rather than ‘in’ or ‘at’
  • the addition of unnecessary modifiers: our next station stop is Cardiff  (the noun modifier does not provide us with useful information);  personal belongings (the denotation of ‘belongings’ is ‘personal effects’ so the adjective is superfluous)
  • the inclusion of auxiliary verbs where there is no clear semantic reason for them: we do apologise … we do wish to inform you … (for emphasis?)
  • the replacement of simple, high frequency verbs with more formal verbs: depart (‘leave’); terminate (‘end’)

For David Marsh’s article on the  ‘Mind your Language’ blog, follow the link below:


irritated man on trainAnd for anyone travelling by train, please collect other examples and use the comment link at the end of this post to report your findings. It will be interesting to see what other distinctive linguistic features we can find!

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