One of my very first blog entries (on my old blog, long since deleted) praised whoever wrote the announcements on the New York City subways for using momentarily correctly: “We are being held in the station momentarily by the train’s dispatcher. We expect to be moving shortly.”
Well, those days are pretty much gone.
Most of the announcements we hear on the subway are now canned, recorded by people with generic American-broadcast accents, in a gross affront to the few remaining people who still speak like New Yorkers. (We Southerners, of course, have been putting up with that since the dawn of radio, but it still gets up my nose.) Occasionally, on an older train, or when something unexpected happens, you still get a live person with a local accent on the P. A. (the conductor), and some of them still remember that momentarily means “for a moment”, not “in a moment”. (If that strikes you as odd, maybe it will help to think about the Pink Floyd album, “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”. Probably it won’t.)
Only now, it seems, those canned announcements will have to be re-recorded (as soon as the budget allows it), because the old “Ladies and Gentlemen!” is insufficiently inclusive. I’m not complaining about that. If a significant number of subway riders don’t consider themselves to be included in “Ladies and Gentlemen!”, I may disagree, I may frown and grumble a little (how many real ladies and gentlemen have there ever been on the subway anyway?), but who am I to tell them how to feel?
What I am complaining about is the syrupy “Hello Everyone!” which seems to have been selected as an alternative. It’s almost always delivered by a woman who sounds like a kindergarten teacher, and who almost always delivers the message that follows in a sing-song voice, as if commuters were little children.
Official announcements should sound businesslike and impersonal. When an announcement starts out, “Hello Everyone!“, my impulse is to ignore it. It strikes me like a commercial on the radio, and I automatically tune it out. I’m not advocating the bizarre announcementese that calls trash cans receptacles; but what’s wrong with, “Attention Passengers!”?
This morning, the F train was delayed because of “a track condition”, whatever that is. The nice lady who shared that news with “Everyone” told us, “We hope to return to normal operation as soon as possible.” They hope? Surely they will return to normal operation as soon as possible! What they hope, I venture to say, is that it will be possible for them to return to normal operation soon.