November 28th, 2005


where's J. G. Ballard when you need him?

So there was a monorail accident this weekend.

Note I said "accident". Basically, two trains sideswiped each other on a narrow section of track that they shouldn't have both tried to pass at the same time. No one was seriously hurt, other than the trains themselves.

So why does our newspaper instead use the more dramatic word "crash" as well as "accident" while covering this story?

The curious flock to crash site; officials wonder how to separate cars

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. None of the 80 people who were evacuated from the trains on fire ladders was seriously injured.

I have little problem with the use of "crashed", i.e "Pedestrians check out the crashed Monorail trains Sunday in downtown Seattle", as "crashed" has become a synonym for "something which is not working correctly", especially computer systems. But the trains did not "crash"into each other. They scraped.

I think use of the dramatic word "crash" is ill-advised, because it implies an action-movie style collision into Westlake Center or something equally reminiscent of showers of broken glass, crumbled concrete, and Keanu Reeves chasing a mad bomber around public transit systems. Though I'm sure "crash" sells more papers than "accidental scraping leads to stuck trains".
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