Transport-'Ay-shun' shunned (LANGUAGE)

September 7, 2010

The 'Ay-Shun' word seems to be on the way out but there's confusion as to its successor. At the heart of the confusion is the fumble-mouthed Granma, the New York Times - the people who insist on lots of stops such as C.I.A. or U.N., just in case some dimwitted reader might not be able to to understand CIA, or UN? Their front page headline today reads: "Obama Offers a Transit Plan to Create Jobs" (see nearby). 

A glance at the President's speech show it is about spending more of other people's money on highways, bridges, airports, air traffic control and rail.

'Transit' is usually understood as an abbreviation for 'mass transit' - in practice buses and passenger trains. So why would the headline writer call it a 'transit' plan?

Wishful thinking perhaps?

Many New Yorkers, especially the kind who staff proper-thinking lefty institutions like the New York Times, think that transit is the only form of transport that should be built in these enlightened times, and that everything else is a minor distraction.

transportAYSHUN is such a mouthful

More likely it's part of an effort by wordsmiths to find a snappier term for 'transportayshun'.

We've noticed 'transit' popping up elsewhere than the grannypaper in place of the word 'transportayshun.'

But because of transit's close association in people's minds with 'mass transit' it seems a poor substitute.

We've always wondered what was the justification for 'ay-shun' on the end of 'transport'? How do you justify 'transport-ay-shun'?

The grammarians tell us that the appended ending or suffix '-ation' or '-tion' (in Spanish '-cion' with a funny curly mark on the 'c') is used to form a noun out of a verb.

Thus 'justific-ation' is the noun formed from the verb 'justify.'

But the word 'transport' is both a noun and a verb so the ay-shun is redundant.

And it is a canon of good writing that wherever two words have the same meaning the simpler and shorter version should be used.

'ay-shun' is for the pompous

The only possible justification we can see for 'transportayshun' rather than 'transport' - for four syllables rather than two - is for those who positively prefer the pompous and the longwinded title over the short and snappy. It can hardly be an issue of comprehension.

Maybe a 'Department of Transportayshun' sounds more important, more serious, more formidable, more weighty, than a Transport Department?

We'll judge it by what it does for 'transport'.

"for the term of your natural life"

As a sidenote 'transportayshun' in Australia and in Britain has a special historical meaning.

A judge in England would sentence a repeat offending burglar to "transportation" for seven, 14, 21 years or "the term of your natural life," banishing the convict to a penal colony in Australia.

The crusade to end "transportation" of British convicts in Australia had some of the moral character of the American crusade to end slavery  - although fortunately the British had learned their lesson on colonial protest in America, and quietly gave up the practice.

'Transportation' then was a big moral issue.

How to get around: that was just 'transport.'

For mundane movement of people and goods 'transport' has always been the sensible word. It is time to consign transportayshun to the trashcan, and to keep 'transit' for mass transport.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-09-07

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