Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Translating Metro Announcements

Some of you may have visited the National Capital Region (or "NCR," as we sometimes fondly call it) before. You know that it is, for the most part, a beautiful area with lots of green trees and spaces, stately white government buildings*, impressive monuments, and wonderful (largely free) museums. We also have ghastly traffic and expensive and mediocre public transportation.

The centerpiece of the local public transportation is the Metrorail system, which has six separate lines (Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Green, and Silver). The system is fraught with problems from aging equipment and inadequate maintenance to abysmal customer service to lackluster management. Delays and accidents - most minor, but some occasionally quite serious - are common.

One of the most frustrating things about riding on the Metro is understanding the on-board announcements. The combination of ancient, poorly-maintained equipment and poor diction on the part of train operators and station announcers makes it difficult for natives and all but impossible for tourists to understand the announcements that are made, when they can be heard at all.

But don't worry, Dear Readers, if you are contemplating a visit to the nation's capital: as a public service, I have developed a phrase book that will help you understand the otherwise incomprehensible babble that passes for information on your Metrorail car. Here are a few sample phrases ... feel free to print them out for use during your visit:

What you hear: "Bzorkwaj nospokdufamud quabblezaft prospoopl!"
What it means: "The train is arriving at King Street; the doors will open on the left side of the car."

What you hear: "Globnick sprongnibble zapfooie flogblot namenfoozeloo."
What it means: "Please do not attempt to hold the doors open."

What you hear: "Oznog bifflebugner schlobwotkins frabbid hoggfrubble."
What it means: "Thick black smoke and flames are normal. Please remain seated."

What you hear: "Ishkabibble zerflootie pidnigorfidgy shtoofle. Zipnig blorflodging wazooky!"
What it means: "Please do not try to crowd onto this train. Another equally crowded train will arrive in three minutes."

What you hear: "Hissbuzzcracklesquealsssssssssssss."
What it means: The speakers don't work in this car, either.

What you hear: "Metro fares will go up on June first."
What it means: "Metro fares will go up on June first. Suck it up."

Don't thank me. It's all part of the service. And if you're interested in exciting rides other than those offered by Metrorail, here's a great duet by Nanci Griffith** and Richard Thompson ...

Have a good day. Enjoy your ride on the Metro: it's cheaper than most amusement park rides, and often every bit as exciting. More thoughts tomorrow.


* And stately white government officials.

** One of my favorite performers!


eViL pOp TaRt said...

So true! And the same can be said for in-flight or airport announcements. The people using the microphones talk too fast and loud. Plus there's the squealing, like from a hog pen.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Most people overdrive microphones and speakers/ They tend to shout.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

gosh I wish you had been on my plane to interpret our flight attendant. No one could understand him and the woman across the aisle from my husband was hysterical by it. She said allowed to anyone who would listen, "What is he saying?"
None of us knew. Rick said complete with the hand gestured this man used, "The plane is going down and I'm outta here first" Everyone laughed but of course this older woman did not find that funny. No one knew what he said. And the PA wasn't even the issue. He could barely speak English plus it appeared he had a speech impediment which really helped this situation. :-)

Anemone said...

They talk too fast, like they're on speed!

Banana Oil said...

It does cause excitement in a way, wondering what had been announced! Very interesting.

Mike said...

Nospokdufamud flogblot bifflebugner zerflootie wazooky!