Why are transport announcements so difficult to understand?

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It’s a global phenomenon, no matter where you’re travelling, no matter what form of transport you choose, one (un)familiar voice will greet your ears:

‘hllr wlcm trr shpsshps gyklp, yygnshmp delayed brh brh ntljp runny nose tl frthr ntssx, grrs grsh.’

No, it’s not just you, none of us can understand what that seemly universal voice is saying. We’re here to put a literal end to this nonsense and bring some clarity to these, quite frankly, incomprehensible voices.

First stop, we checked in with the head of the TAU (Transport Announcers’ Union), Rsms Ptrfld, we asked him why transport announcements are so hard to understand: ‘Well, for one, I have to stress that blrrth blrrth stn mcbxk qllt nsvwnh; bwllh dyfcrt customer satisfaction nn dyr dff dnf. Jqrg snll vldgt dyrt rch highest quality. I hope that clears things up for your readers’.

Sadly, we found Rsms’ words to be just as hard to understand as the ones he was trying to clarify. Not content with the answers we got from the announcers themselves, we looked to another field of study to shed some light on this phenomenon…

We asked linguistics expert and victim of nominative determinism Dr Rita Multitongue to weigh in on the issue:

‘The incomprehensibility of transport announcements is a worldwide phenomenon. The really fascinating thing is that even records which predate public transport, during mass mass migration events, people were complaining that they couldn’t understand what the leaders were saying. It’s believed that much like how humanity found a way to make transportation more efficient, we also found ways to make the announcements more incomprehensible.’

She went on to explain that whilst the history of the phenomenon is well understood, attempts to decipher the speech have not been as successful; she explains ‘There are academics who believe that they have cracked the code so to speak, the trouble is that their papers on the topic are just as incomprehensible and only other experts in the field seem to be able to verify the contents, or at least that’s what we assume they’re doing, we can’t underst¬†

Undeterred by Dr Multitongue’s claims, we brought in some expert cryptographers to try and make sense of these announcements, sadly all of them had to be sectioned for their own safety before they could provide any insight.

One particularly helpful member of staff at a coach station suggested that the voice over the intercom was simply trying to summarise the travel information on The Board. Fascinated by this, we looked at The Board only to find that, whilst legible, it did not always align with reality. Perhaps we must first uncover the mystery of The Board before we can even attempt to try to understand the echoing voice which haunts travel hubs across the globe.

Sadly, our investigation hits a dead end at this point; we barely had the funding to get this far into the investigation (a future edition of the magazine may or may not have been sacrificed to get this far) and there’s certainly not enough to investigate The Board right now. Thankflly, learning abot this seemingly cursed lnguage hasn’t rendered us cmpletely incomprehensible eithr.

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Editor-in-Chief for 2023/24. Interests include: satire, social sciences, heavy music, and leveraging anything within reach to try and make people laugh.

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