Weekly Wrap 341: Cows, Canberra, and the Cyber Kangaroo

Cows on the Move: click to embiggenMy week of Monday 5 to Sunday 11 December 2016 was dominatedby my trip to Canberra to take part in the “360° Cyber Security Game” being convened by RAND Corporation and the National Security College (NSC) at The Australian National University (ANU).

In the background I did quite a bit of work on the SEKRIT editorial project. I promise to tell you more about that before Christmas.

Articles

Podcasts, Media Appearances, Corporate Largesse

None.

[Photo: Cows on the Move. Cattle run from the Canberra-Sydney train as it passed at full speed on 9 December 2016.]

Why people who say “train station” sound stupid

Google Ngram "railway station" all English: click to embiggenI cringe when people talk about the “train station”. “It’s ‘railway station’, you morons,” screams my brain. Well as it turns out, they’re actually not stupid — at least not for that reason. It’s just another relatively modern shift in language.

The chart at the top of the post is a Google Ngram search of their entire English corpus since 1820 — the first public steam railway in the world was the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which opened in 1825 — comparing the usage of “railway station” (blue) versus “railroad station” (red) and “train station” (orange).

You can click through to the full-size chart, or run the search yourself.

As you can see, the most common usage has almost always been “railway station”, with “railroad station” distinctly second-place. A “train station” wasn’t even a thing until the 1950s, but it rose in popularity quite quickly. “Train station” has been the most common usage since the mid-1990s, although it has been declining again since around 2000. I wonder why.

My understanding is that many railway terms derived from the military, because until the railways came along nothing else had been organised on that sort of trans-national and even trans-continental scale except armies. Hence trains have “guards” for their safe operation, and “stations” along the line where staff are stationed to maintain the entire railway system — including fuel, water, trackwork and signalling.

Railway stations are therefore part of a railway’s entire operation, not merely “train stations” for trains to stop at. For me, someone talking about “train stations” is showing their ignorance of how railways work: it’s more than just the trains.

Since I had the Google open in front of me, I thought I’d look at the variations in US versus UK English. It seems that “railroad station” isn’t the dominant American usage that I’d imagined.

Continue reading “Why people who say “train station” sound stupid”

Links for 10 August 2009

Here are the web links I’ve found for 10 August 2009 and some days beforehand, posted automatically, kinda.

Unreliable Bangkok, revisited

Photograph of Thai Airways International Boeing 747-400 at Sydney Airport

Just 18 months ago, I wrote about how this ordinary aircraft would change my life. And it did. This Boeing 747, or one very like it, took me on my first trip outside Australia, to Thailand. I’m about to be changed again. Dramatically.

I can’t tell you about my SEKRIT project just yet, except that it will expose me to things which are Very Different from anything I’ve experienced in my life so far. This morning, though, I’ve been re-reading the pieces I wrote when I returned from Thailand, each labelled “Unreliable Bangkok”.

You may like to re-read them with me now. I quite liked them at the time. If nothing else, the photographs are interesting. Perhaps.

My SEKRIT project will also involve international travel, but not to Thailand. I’ll be posting every day while I’m away — because that’s the point of the trip! — and more reflective pieces upon my return. Stay tuned.