or does anyone else find it astonishing that London Underground still says trains are being delayed by "a person under a train"

(87 Posts)
quesadilla Wed 17-Jul-13 11:33:49

OK so I know its a factually accurate way to describe the situation... but in this world where people are often so sensitive to things that could offend others and officialdom goes to such great lengths to use polite euphemism where possible, that a public suicide, with all the horror, misery and mess that involves, is described so graphically like that, publicly, to millions of people, seems really jarring to me.
It seems a little like having a receptionist at a GPs office shouting across a packed waiting room "are you ready for your abortion?" or something. Not saying its necessarily offensive, but I still find it jaw-dropping...Has anyone else noticed this or am I just being oversensitive?

Morgause Wed 17-Jul-13 11:35:02

I think it stops people moaning about bad service and delays - they know there is a very good reason fir the delay.

Souredstones Wed 17-Jul-13 11:35:29

Seems fair enough. Gives everyone realistic expectations of when the trains may get moving again

quesadilla Wed 17-Jul-13 11:36:00

Morgause sure... but could they not say "trains are being delayed by a fatality" or "a fatal incident"?

AnneEyhtMeyer Wed 17-Jul-13 11:36:57

YABU and overly sensitive.

I hate all the euphemisms - why is death so hard to talk about? I think if it was talked about more openly people would fear it less and we wouldn't be in the ridiculous situation of people refusing to donate their loved ones' organs because it has never been discussed.

Souredstones Wed 17-Jul-13 11:37:24

Not all of them are fatal.

Could be worse, they could as "we have a one under, mind your step"

Pobblewhohasnotoes Wed 17-Jul-13 11:38:00

But it's the same thing, everyone knows that.

At least you know how long it'll be before the trains get going again.

HeySoulSister Wed 17-Jul-13 11:39:02

Can't protect all the over sensitive little souls out there op! Sometimes a good dose of reality isn't a bad thing

Poor driver

TheReturnoftheSmartArse Wed 17-Jul-13 11:40:46

Fulham Broadway this morning?

I know what you mean, OP - though I'd rather know we're not going anywhere for a long time so I can make other plans. If they say "signal failure" (yet again) then that could mean 10 minutes or 3 hours.

VinegarDrinker Wed 17-Jul-13 11:41:54

I was on the Overground & they used "fatality" - half the passengers didn't understand it!

Lazyjaney Wed 17-Jul-13 11:42:48

Does everything have to be a euphemism these days? Are modern peoples minds so delicate?

RoooneyMara Wed 17-Jul-13 11:42:53

Horrible, I agree with you but it is sometimes an accident I expect. Like someone falling off the platform by mistake and they have to delay the train to pull them out safely?

A person under a train isn't always fatal. The announcement is factually accurate, and is done to be as minimally distressing as possible.

TallGiraffe Wed 17-Jul-13 11:43:13

YABU. I think it's a good announcement as barring a few hardhearted folk everyone hearing that will think "poor person, family and driver" and many will offer up a few silent prayers. And then go home and hug their loved ones.

Suelford Wed 17-Jul-13 11:43:17

"Fatality" could mean that someone on board had a heart attack, it's less informative.

SalaciousBCrumb Wed 17-Jul-13 11:43:46

See I think acknowledging that a person is involved is much better than just talking about "an incident on the line" or even a "fatality".

Years ago I was at our (mainline) station when someone jumped in front of an express. I will never forget the sound.

Not shocked at all.

Fakebook Wed 17-Jul-13 11:45:15

YABU. A person under the train is what it is. Saying "fatality" sounds worse to my ears. When I hear the word "fatality" I think of blood and death. Person under the train sounds like just a person under the train.

PrettyKitty1986 Wed 17-Jul-13 11:45:42

It doesn't shock me and nor do I really have a sensitive personality but iswym. It just seems 'crude' more than anything and yes, I'd think there was a better way to explain it, if only out of respect for the poor person it's about.

Along the same lines was mine and my mums feelings when reading a letter she'd had after a routine mammogram. The letter actually said 'Dear Mrs X. The results of your recent test show that you do not have breast cancer'. Not that the results were negative or clear etc. Yes it was factually correct but surely there is a more subtle way to put it?

SalaciousBCrumb Wed 17-Jul-13 11:48:12

See I'd completely disagree with you there PrettyKitty - I think it's very important that the letter is worded in that way so there's no room for doubt. Particularly with "negative" - sometimes people don't understand that negative test results are actually good!

quesadilla Wed 17-Jul-13 11:49:03

I'm not saying I think its wrong or particularly offensive, I'm certainly not offended by it... I just find it surprising, for precisely the reasons some of you have outlined. There is so much euphemism in every day life (and I hate it too and far prefer straight talking.) It just literally brings me up short when I hear that "person under a train" thing.

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 11:49:17

'person under a train' is a polite euphemism for the reality of the situation.

K8Middleton Wed 17-Jul-13 11:50:57

I am all for plain speaking and plain English. Especially in medical and test results.

"Person under a train" is fine to use. I'm not sure why it wouldn't be?

Mandy2003 Wed 17-Jul-13 11:51:10

A corpse on the line hmm

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 11:53:12

with the breast cancer one 'negative' or 'clear' could easily be misunderstood.

'you do not have breast cancer'. That is what the person wants to know. It's entirely unambiguous.

quesadilla Wed 17-Jul-13 11:54:57

Again, I'm not saying I'm offended by it or think it shouldn't be used. I am just struck by how much it jars with the general desire to paper over things like this that one generally encounters. It just seems LU is one of the last corners of the corporate world not to have succumbed to vague language.

WafflyVersatile do you think its a euphemism? I find it pretty direct. Doesn't leave much to the imagination...

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 11:57:09

person under a train gives me an image of someone squeezed in the gulley hoping they're clear of the train rather than mangled limbs and blood splattered onlookers.

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 11:57:46

x post but I've pretty much answered it anyway.

MrsDoomsPatterson Wed 17-Jul-13 11:58:20

Life isn't all fluffy bunnikins is it. We're all adults, give the real reason.

Owllady Wed 17-Jul-13 11:59:53

I do know what you mean but I also agree with AnneEyhtMeyer too.

Did anyone watch the Rankin special on Saturday night wrt his Alive exhibition? It was really interesting and thought provoking (and sad obviously)

Shrugged Wed 17-Jul-13 12:01:34

I prefer the directness, if I'm honest. But then I loathe almost any kind of euphemism. I appreciate that people may want to say 'passed away' when they are talking about a recent, painful bereavement, but it drives me mad when people use it in general as a replacement for 'died' in non-personal situation eg 'when Queen Victoria passed away'.

I agree OP.

It's good to know that it's a serious delay but it's a bit gruesome. They could say 'passenger on the tracks' or something along those lines.

I don't find it offensive or anything, I just think it's strangely blunt.

yamsareyammy Wed 17-Jul-13 12:03:12

I think it could and should have different, softer words.
It may also be triggering to some people. It may also lead some people to "copy".

SalaciousBCrumb Wed 17-Jul-13 12:04:16

Passenger on the tracks - might not be a passenger

They also sometimes have to announce delays because there are trespassers on the tracks - means there will be a delay whilst they shoo them off, not that necessarily they've been hit by a train (so will be a lot longer delay)

I hate euphemisms for death. It irritated me when my DH's family referred to my mother as having passed on. She didn't pass anywhere, she died. Endov. Maybe it's because we don't witness or encounter death as often now, that we are curiously embarrassed or ashamed of it, and of grief.

I prefer the underground to be straight about what has happened when there's a suicide. Apart from anything else, they're making sure that we know it is a situation beyond their control. Also language is a factor (much like the "you do not have cancer" statement) - it is clear and concise, even if your English isn't great.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 17-Jul-13 12:06:35

There is nothing else they could say:
- can't say a 'fatality' as not always fatal
- can't say someone jumped off a platform as they don't know this (they could have been pushed or fallen)
- Passenger on the tracks could mean that someone was just standing on the tracks not moving out of the way, which would probably cause substantially more annoyance than if the person was under a train.

Saying 'a person under a train' in the most factual way of saying it. Is there a soft way of saying it?

valiumredhead Wed 17-Jul-13 12:08:24

What waffly said, it already is a polite way of saying it.

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 12:08:32

'the horror, misery and mess that involves, is described so graphically'

It's hardly graphic.

graphic would be 'the service has been cancelled because a man/woman/child is being scraped off the front of a train while the driver rocks back and forth weeping on a bench'

valiumredhead Wed 17-Jul-13 12:18:20

Was just about to post be grateful it's not you dealing with the body! My Dh encountered a few suicides while working on the trains, it's not nice, he coped ok but the chap he was worth needed 6 months of work with counselling afterwards.

valiumredhead Wed 17-Jul-13 12:18:44

With not worth

anonacfr Wed 17-Jul-13 12:27:38

I thought it was a euphemism. It find strangely poetic (I know I'm odd).

When I opened the thread I thought you were going to say the exact opposite of what you did ie 'why make it so vague why not say someone fell on the tracks and died'.

badtime Wed 17-Jul-13 12:30:58


I think it is a good way of explaining it. It is accurate without being too informative (How injured is the 'person'? Did they jump? Fall? Were they pushed? Did they climb off the tracks themselves or are they being cleaned off with a high-pressure hose*?) If people started giving details in twee euphemistic language, I think it would be much more unpleasant. I find euphemisms about death and injury very creepy anyway.

And to the person who said it could be triggering, I will tell you from experience that literally anything can be triggering.

* I saw a documentary.

Kiriwawa Wed 17-Jul-13 12:35:22

There are many, many people who travel on the tube who don't speak great English, especially at this time of year. Person under a train is easy to understand. Fatality isn't.

I think it stops people getting too cross too - they understand why it's going to take a long time before they're able to return to normal service.

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper Wed 17-Jul-13 12:36:43

YANBU. I think they could have a more sensitive way of explaining it so that adults know what is happening but any children listening won't click on about the delay. It could even be a vague as "the train is delayed due to an incident on the line". An incident could be anything, yes, but that's enough information to explain a delay imo.

BearsInMotion Wed 17-Jul-13 12:41:25

Not so graphic as the train guard who marched through our carriage saying the train would be another hour late as, "We sent one train past and the passengers didn't like it, so they have to clean it up before we can go." sad

badtime Wed 17-Jul-13 12:44:07

AmyFarrah, the problem is that 'an incident on the line' sounds like a bullshit excuse. If people hear things like that, they get more annoyed and aggressive with Underground staff than if it is a clear reason beyond the control of the train operators.

Dfg15 Wed 17-Jul-13 12:44:22

I also dislike euphemisms for death - when I hear someone say 'so and so lost her husband' I always think 'that was very careless' can't help it, it just pops into my head. Why can't people just say someone has died.

CloudsAndTrees Wed 17-Jul-13 12:45:30

I think they say it like that to make it very clear that it isn't their fault. If they disc there was an incident, it could be anything, and people will want to know if London Underground are at fault or not.

I'd rather hear the truth, it puts your own inconvenience into perspective.

MidniteScribbler Wed 17-Jul-13 12:47:06

If there has been someone injured or killed, I imagine that whoever has to type or announce the message has probably got much bigger things on their mind than to sit debating the precise wording so as not to offend anyone.

Poogate Wed 17-Jul-13 12:47:20

I'm all for straight talking. And it stops me bitching about being late; I always just feel so sad for whoever decided that they would end their life that day by throwing themselves under a tube train. If the reason given is ambiguous, I may be tempted to feel irritated (ie. fault with the train, etc).

And as for the 'you do not have cancer' letter, isn't that exactly what one wants to know? confused

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 12:50:14

I was going to say the other good thing about the phrase as there is no judgement in there. It doesn't say it was a suicide or attempt or accident, but I see that people do assume it is suicide and fatal.

I agree with Kiri, everyone knows what `person under a train` means. Not everyone speaks fluent English and its a saying that people understand. You know no point in waiting, just get off and find alternative transport. I should imagine that most people dont take their frustrations out on LU staff either when that particular announcement is made.

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper Wed 17-Jul-13 13:00:48

Ooh, I hadnt thought of that bad. I can see what you mean, it does sound a bit like they are fobbing people off if they say that!

Earnshaw Wed 17-Jul-13 13:05:30

The only time I've ever been held up by a dead body on the line was more than 20 years ago, en route to Gatwick, and the announcement was of 'an incident on the line'. There was a general (correct) assumption that this incident was a suicide, but several people were still moaning about the inconvenience.

This was long before the majority of passengers had about their persons not only the means to phone and complain on the spot, but the means to look up the correct number. Maybe being less euphemistic means that people will feel awkward about bombarding the rail company with demands for refunds while the 'incident' is still being dealt with.

I completely agree with 'You haven't got cancer' is exactly what you want to see in a letter from the breast clinic.

Earnshaw Wed 17-Jul-13 13:06:01

agree that

specialsubject Wed 17-Jul-13 13:12:42

tell it how it is, London Underground. If someone has jumped it is horrific for all concerned - the person who was so despairing that they did it, their family, the driver and the people who have to clear up. Telling people what has happened means that there may be a little more tolerance of the delay and the staff won't be given such a hard time.

Jenny70 Wed 17-Jul-13 13:18:51

As Australians over here we have noticed a big difference in the way things are reported here - in Oz there are regulations on reporting suicide (or mentioning it in any official way) - they are definitely in the "incident on the line" side of the debate. People realistically know why, but youngsters may not. But I do accept people with poor english also don't understand it.

There was an article in a newspaper about a suicide in australia, and the Oz paper said something like " XYZ died and police are not looking for anyone else connected with the incident" and the UK paper added to the quote that this as "this is how Australian newspapers refer to suicide". There is some belief that plain speaking about suicide and especially how it is done does encourage copycats...

I'm not sure which side I sit on, I do think the direct explanation leads to less commuter frustration, but then it's quite offensive when people complain that someone suicided in front of their train and possibly ruined a perfectly normal day for them, ignoring that this person was desperate and their family devesated by their actions.

Owllady Wed 17-Jul-13 13:24:13

gosh someone has been hit by a train at my local station today as well sad

domesticslattern Wed 17-Jul-13 13:38:42

I heard it this morning. Factually correct and covers all different bases as others have mentioned. I think it's sensible.
Whenever I hear it I always think, I am having a bad day because I am delayed but some other people are having a much worse day sad

Pigsmummy Wed 17-Jul-13 13:45:45

Tall Giraffe nailed it, I am always moved when I hear this, it is shocking, it shouldn't be dampened down. It is factual. If you feel upset when hearing it then you are having what I think is a understandable response.

mummytime Wed 17-Jul-13 13:58:52

I think knowing a bit more about death and suicide is actually off putting with respect to doing it yourself. A bit like the Dorothy Parker poem, but then I have spent a lot of time explaining to my children exactly why trying to overdose on paracetamol was a particularly horrific death.

Jan49 Wed 17-Jul-13 14:11:44

I think they used to say things like "due to an incident" and not give any further explanation and people used to get annoyed about it so they switched to giving more details. Supposedly people will be more understanding about a delay when they are told more detail.

I confess I would think "person under the train" meant someone had fallen on the track or climbed down, not necessarily a suicide or death.

WafflyVersatile Wed 17-Jul-13 14:20:02

Apparently it's not that failsafe as a suicide method. People end up mangled but not always dead.

Bubbles1066 Wed 17-Jul-13 14:23:32

they say a fatality here. So sad when I hear it. When I was commuting it was all to common unfortunately.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Wed 17-Jul-13 14:25:58

YABU for all the reasons mentioned above - and I think it also reminds us to

a) be careful on a busy and crowded tube platform
b) be mindful of others, notice anyone who seems distressed.

defineme Wed 17-Jul-13 14:26:17

I was on a crosscountry train with my 8 yrold ds when a man jumped in front of it(thank god my ds was facing me as the body hit and cracked the windscreen-very brutal). The train leaned to one side and ground to a halt and thenThe poor guard ran up the train shouting'we've just killed someone! Then we could hear him saying into the radio that the driver had run off. When the transport police and paramedics arrived there was much talk of getting the body off the tracks.
I have no issue with this. They all did remarkably well in a horrific situation. I do not expect the sensitivities of my child to be taken into account when a person has died: my child comes way down the list of priorities.

SocialClimber Wed 17-Jul-13 14:33:44

Well, they could say it literally if you'd prefer..."operatives are currently picking limbs and brains up from the front of the train, to a mile down the track which is the distance it usually travels. Please note this will take a while because a body usually gets obliterated when hit at speed. The driver will be requiring counselling shortly after, as will the operatives scraping the person off the track."

I think I prefer "person under a train."

yamsareyammy Wed 17-Jul-13 14:37:55

"Person on the track" sounds better. Could be all sorts then.

AvonCallingBarksdale Wed 17-Jul-13 14:40:18

IMO YABU, but that's also a lot to do with me hating euphemisms for death. When DFiL died, people talked about us having "lost" him, or him having "passed away" confused No, he died. It's very confusing for children especially. Straight, plain talking tis best.

60sname Wed 17-Jul-13 14:41:58

yamsareyammy Why does it have to be 'all sorts'? Maybe someone's death shouldn't be lumped in with leaves on the line and signal failures at Willesden Junction.

catsmother Wed 17-Jul-13 14:43:18

I have heard "fatality" when it is, and "person under a train" when either it is a fatality - but perhaps the announcer wants to "soften" the true facts - or when someone's been seriously injured.

Either way, it's semantics .... when I hear anything alluding to people under trains I just used to feel very sad, and yes, more sympathetic to the delays - in a similar way to being in a vast tailback, and then you pass burnt out cars and realise your day hasn't been so bad after all.

These days however, when I hear such an announcement I wonder if my son who's a London BTP officer is involved, and exactly what awful things he's seeing and/or having to do ........ the way it's described is the least of my concern.

MrsOakenshield Wed 17-Jul-13 14:51:06

sorry, haven't read whole thread but surely 'person under a train' is an accurate and concise thing to say if, at the time of the announcement, it's not known if it was an accident, suicide or even, I suppose, murder, and if the person concerned is dead, alive, seriously injured or just a few scratches.

It's a way of saying there could be a substantial delay that is not the fault of LU. I think LU staff can get a hell of a lot of abuse when there are delays and perhaps this stops most people (except the utter wankers) having a pop at staff.

I think it is a good announcement, there is no need to sugar coat the situation; its clear and its factual. Its announcement that is sadly heard all too often but at least then you put your own frustration into perspective and realise that for some people the day is unimaginably awful.

yamsareyammy Wed 17-Jul-13 14:58:30

Because of my post of 12.03pm, 60sname.

becscertainstar Wed 17-Jul-13 15:10:53

I'm a Londoner, so I hear it a lot. Whenever I hear 'person under a train' I take a moment to pray for that person, for the driver, and for any staff involved in the rescue/recovery of that person. Then I pray for two people I knew and cared for who committed suicide in this way. Then I say a prayer of very fervent thanksgiving that I recovered from depression. If I heard 'an incident on the line' I wouldn't say those prayers.

If you don't believe in prayer then I guess it makes no difference - just me talking to my imaginary friend in the sky smile but those beliefs are important to me and many do believe and would prefer to be prayed for at that moment.

On a more practical note I'm sure that people give the staff less grief if they understand why they're being delayed. It jolts people out of their 'but I'll be late for that meeting' mentality and into 'thank God I'm alive - that poor soul'.

samandi Wed 17-Jul-13 16:09:59

I think it's fine.

I mean, obviously, everything isn't fine ... many people will be delayed on their journeys after all :-(

yamsareyammy Wed 17-Jul-13 16:54:36

But I wonder, becscertainstar, why there are so many "person under a train".
And I could be wrong, but I think it is precisely because it so obvious what has happened.
Suicides often happen in clusters.

mrsballack Wed 17-Jul-13 17:05:06

I can't see the problem with the announcement. We have it drilled into us that passengers want to be told the truth.

You'd think it would stop people having a go, but sadly that's not the case. Having dealt with the aftermath of many a 'person under a train' incidents, I can say that most of the public give a small sigh and find another route. But there are plenty that yell at the staff and shout and scream.

ubik Wed 17-Jul-13 17:11:04

That announcement has never bothered me. The fact the poor driver has hit someone has bothered me. A lot.

I don't understand the point of the op

ubik Wed 17-Jul-13 17:12:55

Sorry posted too soon

The other point these announcements may be fir other staff as well as passengers to let staff know the actual situation - a body under a train will probably trigger many, many processes some that passengers wi definitely not be aware of.

Worriedmind Wed 17-Jul-13 17:30:30

I think its better that they are quite clear, I was once taken off a train with other passengers with just a someone is ill explanation.

People were on the platform kicking off about the delay even when the paramedics turned up. They were on the train trying to resuscitate a man who had arrested and people were still moaning about being delayed even though we could all see what was happening.

microserf Wed 17-Jul-13 17:43:26

No, I think saying person under a train is just right. It reinforces the severity of the situation, makes people less likely to have a go at the station staff, and indicates how long you can expect the train line to be out of action.

Did anyone see the tube documentary they had a while back? I felt very sad for the drivers and tube and other staff who had to attend these incidents. It must be awful.

There are some members of the travelling public who don't give a fuck about anything or anyone - as long as they can get to their destination then all hell can break loose

I was once stood on a cordon outside Kings Cross stn during an evacuation for a bomb threat, and had to restrain more than one person trying to get through the cordon, determined to get to their train - as if trains would be running!

I think the terminology is fine. It covers all bases regarding intent and survival, yet makes it clear that the delay is due to the need to remove a human, alive or dead, from the tracks.

IME, TfL tend to use 'person under a train' but National Rail use 'fatality', 'incident' or 'trespassers on the line' to cover the various eventualities.

desertgirl Thu 18-Jul-13 08:30:30

The preferred way of referring to death in Dubai, at least among the (majority) Indian community, is 'expired'.

It sounds to me like a pot of yogurt or something and am always afraid an inappropriate smile will surface.

Don't see a problem with the 'person under a train' reference but there are always the selfish travellers who object to eg a flight delay because of very sick infant (with equipment) being boarded en route to hospital - there will always be nasty comments from those few.

Trills Thu 18-Jul-13 08:31:58


I think that using the rather antiquated phrase is their way of euphemising it.

t's when they start using phrases that you know they've never said before that you should start to worry.

SinisterBuggyMonth Thu 18-Jul-13 08:39:23

Its fine. Much better than the very PC "passenger action" that used to get used a few years ago. It sounds like a sudden protest.

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