Words are powerful, used in the right way. Today has seen two examples of miscommunication and an example of unintentionally making humour out of a serious situation.
I decided to pop out for a while today to blow away some post Christmas/New Year cobwebs. That involved a good trip around London by train. When arriving at Liverpool Street, I noticed that a lot of departures had been scrubbed. I wanted to know why, so I checked the National Rail Enquiries website.
It said and I quote “There are delays to services between Romford and Liverpool Street, unfortunately due to a person bit by a train”.
Now, any incident like this is tragic and shocking for the relatives of the person involved. But the message said “Bit by a train”. That is an unintentionally humorous slant on a serious situation. The individual concerned with communicating the message got it hopelessly wrong. Some years ago, a similar message was printed on a monitor that instead of saying “Persons hit by a train”, came out as “Person shit by a train”. Grammar and syntax are all important in conveying serious messages, but one mistype can bring a humorous angle, as we have seen.
Next, I went into a coffee shop and asked for a “Cream Tea”. For those not in the know, that is a pot of tea with a buttered scone, with cream and jam. A lovely light lunchtime break. I said clearly to the assistant “Cream Tea”. When I reached the end of the counter, her colleague gave me a “Green Tea”…….hmmmm. So I went back to the counter and repeated the original request. She profusely apologised and the original order was processed. To give her an excuse, it was a little noisy in the coffee shop and she misheard.
So two examples of how not to communicate properly. But they bring unintentional humour, because English is such a varied and colourful language, with plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong.