GEONAMES.

Another site I can’t believe I haven’t discovered and posted about before: Geonames. The front page is pretty badly designed; the image of the earth at night is pleasant, but gives no indication of what the site is, and you have to scroll down past an endless series of translations of a brief description (English: “The countries of the world in their own languages and scripts; with official names, capitals, flags, coats of arms, administrative divisions, national anthems, and translations of the countries and capitals into many languages”) to get to the meat of the site, a collection of links to various pages: Days, Months, Planets, Mountains, etc.; a huge list of languages with each name given in the original (with transliteration where appropriate); various other random items (including a small set of famous people: it’s fun to see the varying forms of Charlemagne); an Alphabets section; and finally a set of Glossaries, with a few hundred English words translated into, well, everything (divided into manageable sets: Albanian|Greek|Armenian, American|Polynesian, Asian, Balto-Slavic, Basque|Caucasus, Celtic, Constructed, etc.). Greg says “A lot of work has gone into something that is interesting but only marginally useful”; I say: Useful? What is this “useful” you speak of? I could spend hours and hours splashing around in there! A random fact of the sort I love: Cairo in Lao is ເລີແກ (Lœ̄kǣ), obviously from le Caire. (Thanks, mission civilisatrice!) And I learned about a language new to me; I saw the abbreviation “kap” was for the language Bezhta, and looking that up I discovered Bezhta (or Bezheta) is a North Caucasian language also known as Kapucha. (Wikipedia says it is “spoken by about 10,000 people in southern Dagestan”; the Ethnologue page they link to says 3,000. The discrepancy may have something to do with the fact that since the 1926 census, the Bezhtas have been counted as Avars for official purposes.) Thanks, Greg!

Comments

  1. mollymooly says:

    nice. Interesting which languages retain the first “c” in “Antarctica”.

  2. dearieme says:

    I see that Irish Gaelic takes twice as long to say the same thing as Manx Gaelic. To be sure, to be sure.

  3. English and French don’t, strictly speaking, retain the first c. As the OED says s.v. antarctic: “The original English [antartyk, 14th century], phonetically modified by passage through Romance, has, like modern French antarctique, been [in the 16th century, though c-less forms still appear in the 17th] conformed to the Greek spelling, though still often pronounced [ænˈtɑːtɪk].” This is OED2, so it’s not clear whether the final time reference is to the end of the 19th century (OED1) or some time in the 20th (the Supplements). Anyhow, I bet [k]-less pronunciations are still very common, though not normative.

  4. John Emerson says:

    The Avar link is either interesting new information, or a garble, or both — usually I can tell which. Definitely there’s some garbling.
    The article has Caucasian-language speakers migrating to the Caucasus from east of the Aral Sea. This is not impossible, because, the Caucasian-speaking Kabardians lived on the plains NE of the Black Sea as late as 1700 or even later. But it means that the Caucasian language group once had a much greater geographical range than I had thought.
    The article seems to identify the European and the Caucasian Avars as two branches of one people, with the Szeklers of Hungary descendants of the European Avars who may also have been related to the Huns. None of this is impossible but it’s a long stretch, or several of them.
    And then you have the Juan-Juan in China, who might be identifiable with the European Avars. recently I read that that identification had been confirmed, but who can you trust?

  5. I could spend hours and hours splashing around in there!
    You’re so right, LH!

  6. Great site, thanks for the pointer, Hat! I am going to ask them why they haven’t included the obvious geographical subdivisions of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Anything to push my campaign for more widespread use of the Māori names for the islands.

  7. petroleum is gazrun tos in Mongolian, second – agshin, other words i read so far are correct, instead of those two words there were given Russian words
    i spent a summer at my Buriad grandma’s place when i was 3 yo, and came back home speaking all Buriad, according to my parents
    so can comprehend both Buriad and Kalmuk it seems when read their word entries

  8. But it means that the Caucasian language group once had a much greater geographical range than I had thought.
    I once tried to track down two groups of people from the Caucasus region now living in Jordan in huge numbers, the armen (Armenians) and the zirka (Circassians), and got thoroughly confused. Maps show the Armenians once lived in a huge swath from the Caspian to the Mediterranean. I also heard an interesting migration story from a Circassian living in Jebel al-Webdeh in Amman. According to the story, during a war between Russia and Turkey, Russia wanted the land and Turkey wanted the people, so the Armenian people were allowed to pass over the mountains into Turkey to safety, as long as they were Moslem. They are now nominally Moslem, but they did however keep the custom of burying their dead with an open scissors over the heart.
    There must have been many more such migration stories throughout history.

  9. mollymooly says:

    “I see that Irish Gaelic takes twice as long to say the same thing as Manx Gaelic.”
    Manx Gaelic is Irish Gaelic written with the phoneme-grapheme correspondences of English. Which should result in the merger of phonemes English doesn’t distinguish. Since most nonnative speakers in Ireland merge these anyway, maybe we should use their spelling.

  10. I’ve read your note on my website GEONAMES and changed the frontpage to ease access for new visitors. Thank you for the chance to improve my site and of course for the compliments 🙂

  11. Fantastic site, Werner. It must have been a lot of work putting it together.

  12. Lugubert says:

    It could be quite useful for a translator to have all names in one place. It isn’t obvious, for example, that (in Dutch) “the industrial city Rijssel in northern France” should be Lille in Swedish. I have met a francophone guy in the language business who didn’t know that his home province Hainaut was Henegouwen in Dutch. And finding the German name Hennegau through “normal” Googling wasn’t trivial.

  13. Great site, Werner, thank you
    it’s awesome to browse it
    and thank you for changing the words i mentioned, i’ll read other sections and write to you directly if i find other words, sorry

  14. @mollymooly
    Manx Gaelic is Irish Gaelic written with the phoneme-grapheme correspondences of English
    Manx is in fact a separate language more closely related to Scottish Gaelic than to Irish.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    It isn’t obvious, for example, that (in Dutch) “the industrial city Rijssel in northern France” should be Lille in Swedish.
    That city is Lille in French too. I didn’t know that (according to Geonames) the Dutch (or perhaps Flemish) name is Rysel.

  16. scarabaeus says:

    “so the Armenian people were allowed to pass over the mountains into Turkey to safety, as long as they were Moslem.”
    I did not know that

  17. John Emerson says:

    The Circassians are the Kabardians, approximately, and their arrival in Turkey from the steppe north of the Black Sea is fairly recent, the result of a ferocious Russian assault which destroyed the Kabardian state. But I remain tantalized and mystified by the Avar question.

  18. “so the Armenian people were allowed to pass over the mountains into Turkey to safety, as long as they were Moslem.”
    Sorry, I meant Circassian. The story was told to me by a (more or less Moslem) Circassian librarian at Darat al-Funun whose family tradition said they had been Christian before their migration. Darat al-Funun was the location of the first royal court of Emir Abdullah, later King Abdullah I, who ran the government in typically Jordanian informal group consensus fashion with lots of tea ritual and Friday BBQ parties. Circassians were very loyal to the royal family and were part of the King’s most trusted inner circle.
    The stories you hear in Jordan about the relationship between Turkey and the Armenians are more in the massacre vein. Jordan did offer protection to both groups (both with Caucasus languages?) as well as later influxes from Palestine and Iraq, and is proud of their diverse national mixture of a variety of peoples. The Armenians I met in Jordan and Jerusalem were all Christian.

  19. michael farris says:

    Speaking of Manx, I just came across this:
    http://www.learnmanx.com/
    Lots of fun stuff and while the orhtography isn’t wonderful from a purely linguistic point of view I find it pretty agreeable all things considered and actually makes me think I could learn some Manx.
    The opaque spelling of Irish, despite being beautiful and evocative in its own way, surely isn’t very user friendly, it’s the kind of archaic byzantine system that a literary language with an established contuinity of literacy can support but it certainly doesn’t make things … easy in terms of revival.

  20. scarabaeus says:

    “The Armenians I met in Jordan and Jerusalem were all Christian”
    Am of the understanding that those Armenians that change loyalties in order to survived were no longer considered Armenian even though DNA may say differently.

  21. scarabaeus says:

    So you did not mean Hainaut Essex UK

  22. Funny you should mention that. I happened to look that up the other day and I don’t think there’s any connection. Also it’s spelt differently. The one on the Central Line is with an L. Or maybe it’s the other way round.
    Ok, from Wiki:
    The name Hainault was recorded as ‘Hyneholt’ in 1239, and means ‘monastic woodland’. There is no connection with King Edward III’s wife, Philippa of Hainault.
    Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?

  23. Am of the understanding that those Armenians that change loyalties in order to survived were no longer considered Armenian
    As I understand it, Armenians and Circassians are completely different peoples, although they both lived in the Caucasus area at one time, and many have now settled in Jordan.
    Circassians had to change their religion in order to be allowed to enter Turkey when it was at war with Russia in the late 1800’s. The Circassians who eventually moved on to Jordan were loyal to the Hashemite royal family and greatly trusted, first, because they had been offered asylum, but also because they were the sort of people who were capable of great loyalty and could not be bought off once they had given their allegiance (according to the story told by my Circassian acquaintance.)
    The Armenians have at least one church in Amman, as well as a religious elementary school where I once applied for a job. One of the four quarters of the old city of Jerusalem is an Armenian Quarter. I saw their Christmas service there, which was quite somber and reminded me of Gregorian chants. Armenians are known for their diaspora after the 1915 Armenian Genocide which is still denied by Turkey.
    I couldn’t tell you anything about whether they belong to similar genetic or language groups.

  24. Bathrobe says:

    Never a good idea to link to Wikipedia articles about “genocides”. Such articles are invariably the site of never-ending battles between warring POV camps.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: Hainau(l)t: this is a French word of Germanic origin, the name of an old territory which straddled the present Franco-Belgian border. Queen Philippa was the daughter of a lord of that province, she had no personal relation to the English Hainault but her name (or rather the name of her province of origin) did (I am too tired to explain at the moment).
    Nijma: Armenian is an Indo-European language and Circassian (or Cherkess) is an old term which refers to a group of North Caucasian languages. The two language groups are unrelated (= do not have a common ancestor).

  26. Such articles are invariably the site of never-ending battles between warring POV camps.
    In my opinion, that makes it even more intriguing.
    It is what it is.

  27. Another interesting group in Jordan is the Romani, the gypsies, but they are largely unwelcome. I never met any and have no clue what language they speak, but during Ramadan they did show up in one of the local soap operas as fortune tellers.

  28. I am too tired to explain at the moment
    I came across the Belgian/French version of the name when I was blogging about Charlemagne and Belgium. The Wikipedia articles claim there’s no connection, so I’d be interested to hear if that’s wrong.

  29. @michael farris
    I find it pretty agreeable all things considered and actually makes me think I could learn some Manx.
    The opaque spelling of Irish, despite being beautiful and evocative in its own way, surely isn’t very user friendly…
    It’s not only the spelling that’s simpler in Manx which may have been creolized through contact with Norse back in Viking days. It lacks for example the distinction between the copula and substantive verb characteristic of the other Gaelic languages.
    Is Irish spelling so byzantine? There’s the palatal/non-palatal opposition to be taken into account, for example… Irish has lots of consonants.

  30. John Emerson says:

    Manx is just Welsh with the tail chopped off.
    Ha. Joke.

  31. Modern Irish spelling is a breeze compared with Old Irish.

  32. Fair warning: many of the above comments are going into the next edition of Essentialist Explanations.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    Anyhow, I bet [k]-less pronunciations are still very common, though not normative.

    C-less spellings are extremely common on teh intarwebz… though considered wrong by anyone who knows about the spellings with c.

    And then you have the Juan-Juan in China, who might be identifiable with the European Avars. recently I read that that identification had been confirmed, but who can you trust?

    The golden bowl with that inscription in Greek letters and a language that’s probably closely related to Manchu. I’ll dig up a source later.
    Of course, while this clearly argues against “when the Avar steps off his horse, he is a Slav”, it doesn’t mean that the European Avars were a single monolithic people with a single language.

    The opaque spelling of Irish, despite being beautiful and evocative in its own way, surely isn’t very user friendly

    While — unlike that of English — it actually follows its rules all the time, it still makes me want to go Stalinist, as I’ve mentioned before.

    The two language groups are unrelated (= do not have a common ancestor).

    (Probably they do, but the last such ancestor 1) lies… like… very far in the past and 2) also was the last common ancestor of English and Chinese. So, for practical purposes, forget about it. Just remember that Armenian is Indo-European and Circassian is [North]west Caucasian.)

    There’s the palatal/non-palatal opposition to be taken into account, for example…

    Yes, and word-internally it’s taken into account on both sides of the consonant, not just one; both palatalization and lack of it ( = velarization) are marked; and that’s done with vowel letters (sometimes etymologically relevant ones, sometimes not). Often you end up with two vowel letters in a row, and… I don’t know how to find out which one is silent. And then there’s the complicated way in which the consonant mutation stuff is written…

    Modern Irish spelling is a breeze compared with Old Irish.

    Wasn’t the pronunciation much closer to the spelling in those times?

  34. Probably they do
    For particular values of “probably,” not shared by many people outside the Caucasus.
    Wasn’t the pronunciation much closer to the spelling in those times?
    Well, it depends what you mean. It’s often impossible to tell whether consonants are lenited, and the letter h is used pretty much at random: dahucci is pronounced /da’uggi/, whereas doucci is pronounced /do’huggi/. You make the call.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    m-l: The two language groups are unrelated (= do not have a common ancestor).
    DM: (Probably they do, but the last such ancestor 1) lies… like… very far in the past and 2) also was the last common ancestor of English and Chinese.
    If you mean that to find a relationship one would have to go just about all the way to a hypothetical “Proto-World”, presumably spoken in Africa before humans crossed into Europe and Asia, then you are not really saying anything about the two language families and whether they are more or less closely related than, for instance, English and Greek or Norwegian and Zulu.
    So, for practical purposes, forget about it.
    So what is the point of bringing it up? It does not help the reader who is not into the minutiae of comparative linguistics or the controversies about “long-range comparison”.
    Just remember that Armenian is Indo-European and Circassian is [North]west Caucasian.)
    Which is what I said (except for the “west” addition).

  36. And then there’s the complicated way in which the consonant mutation stuff is written
    Lenition is shown by adding the letter h and eclipsis by prefixing the relevant consonant. It could hardly be made any simpler without obscuring the link to the unmutated form.

  37. No, the only bad bit (but it is very bad indeed) in Modern Irish is figuring out which vowel in a vowel digraph is the vowel, and which is merely the orthographic sign of an adjacent broad or slender consonant. Sometimes, as in ao [e:], the answer is “Neither”.
    Using Cyrillic script would make far more sense, not to mention its utility in pissing off the English. “Some of the English might say that the Irish orthography is very Irish. Personally, I have a lot of respect for a people who can create something so grotesque.” –And Rosta, linguist and Englishman

  38. Sometimes, as in ao [e:], the answer is “Neither”
    Yes, this was a diphthong (or diphthongs) in Old Irish. It would be difficult to simplify in Modern Irish because while it is [e:], as you say, both in Munster Irish and (arbitrarily) in the official standard, it is [iː] in the numerically stronger dialect(s) of Connemara.
    Irish schoolchildren don’t seem to have a problem with it in any case. Other vowel combinations are trickier but are not seen as such a big deal by kids who are at the same time having to contend with the vagaries of English spelling.
    It is quite normal among writers of Irish to adapt the spelling of certain words to the way they sound (particularly the vowels) but that invariably means choosing the sounds of one dialect with a loss of transparency for speakers of the others.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    It is quite normal among writers of Irish to adapt the spelling of certain words to the way they sound (particularly the vowels) but that invariably means choosing the sounds of one dialect with a loss of transparency for speakers of the others.
    This is a reason not to change the spelling of English either, even though writers who aim to reproduce (or suggest) a non-standard pronunciation in writing dialogue adapt the spelling of the words.

  40. Werner has kindly added the most common Māori names for the 3 largest islands of Aotearoa to his site now. thanks again for the pointer, LH!

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Well, it depends what you mean. It’s often impossible to tell whether consonants are lenited, and the letter h is used pretty much at random […]

    Ouch. I had no idea. I retract everything.

    If you mean that to find a relationship one would have to go just about all the way to a hypothetical “Proto-World”

    The idea that there was a “Proto-Borean” looks entirely reasonable as far as I can tell, though of course it’s still shaky.

    So what is the point of bringing it up?

    “Point”? I was nitpicking. 🙂

    It could hardly be made any simpler without obscuring the link to the unmutated form.

    Which is precisely what Welsh and Breton (and now Manx) do: IIRC, “father” is tad in Welsh, “his father” is ei dad, and “my father” is fy nhad (with the only voiceless [n] – [n̥] – this side of Burmese). The unmutated form can be reconstructed by switching between consonants at the same place of articulation. Like in Russian, only considerably more regular, and never mind that Russian doesn’t do it to initial consonants.

    but that invariably means choosing the sounds of one dialect with a loss of transparency for speakers of the others.

    This is a reason not to change the spelling of English either

    What do you think of the argument in section 11 of this page?

  42. The following extended list of lexical sets, I claim, provides for all the stressed vowel distinctions made in the living accents of English: KIT, DRESS, TRAP, LOT, STRUT, FOOT, BATH, CLOTH, NURSE, TERM, DIRT, FLEECE, BEAM, FACE, TRAIL, FREIGHT, PALM, THOUGHT, GOAT, SNOW, GOOSE, THREW, PRICE, CHOICE, MOUTH, NEAR, SQUARE, START, NORTH, FORCE, CURE. Since English accents differ primarily in how they pronounce stressed vowels, a spelling system based on these 31 sets is suitable for use with any living accent. Readers would be able, given the spelling of a word, to determine its pronunciation in their own accent, although some pronunciations would correspond to more than one spelling — essentially the same guarantee that French makes, but having regard to the polycentric nature of English pronunciation.
    (For the record, my personal mergers are TRAP=BATH, CLOTH=THOUGHT, NURSE=TERM=DIRT, FLEECE=BEAM, FACE=TRAIL=FREIGHT, GOAT=SNOW, GOOSE=THREW, and NORTH=FORCE.)

  43. marie-lucie says:

    JC: The list looks very good, but what do you mean by ” lexical sets”? Do you mean a set that would include words with the same pronunciation of the vowel as the head word? then that could be a “phonological set”.
    “Lexical set” has a different meaning in historical linguistics, for a set of words which are potential cognates based on their common or very similar meaning and resemblant phonological shape, for instance German Hund, English hound. I am not a fan of this method except for a rough-and-ready assessment as it can lead some people to assume cognacy without going into the nitty-gritty of phonological comparison which would work across such sets and weed out non-cognates. It can also leave aside forms which are indeed cognates but are not picked up because of changes in meaning, for example English spoor ‘chemical trace left by an animal on the ground’, Dutch spuur ‘railway track’ (and perhaps other meanings).

  44. (For the record, my personal mergers are TRAP=BATH, CLOTH=THOUGHT, NURSE=TERM=DIRT, FLEECE=BEAM, FACE=TRAIL=FREIGHT, GOAT=SNOW, GOOSE=THREW, and NORTH=FORCE.)
    This was interesting. Mine would be
    START=BATH, CLOTH=LOT, NURSE=TERM=DIRT, FLEECE=BEAM, FACE=TRAIL=FREIGHT, GOAT=SNOW, GOOSE=THREW, and NORTH=FORCE

  45. Here is a nice summary of Well’s Standard Lexical Sets, which come from his Accents of English.

  46. Accents of English
    I ought not be so stunned, but I do indeed find it astonishing that a book with this title can’t even find room for a country with some 4 million monolingual English speakers on its cover. Once again we are, quite literally, off the map.

  47. Thanks, MMcM, but the 2nd sequel is normally a low point in the series. 🙂

  48. bruessel says:

    m-l: According to the van Daele (Groot woordenboek der nederlandse taal), the Dutch for railway track is written the same as the English word you’re referring to, i.e. “spoor”.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    bruessel, thank you for the correction. I was going by my obviously inaccurate memory of the railway station in Amsterdam, waiting to take a train to Paris, 25 years ago. I thought that there was a slight difference in the spelling in the two languages.

  50. And in England the phrase would be ‘railway platform’, not (Canadian?) ‘railway track’, or U.S. ‘railroad track’, ‘track’ in the sense of what the rails sit on would also be ‘line’ in England.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    In general, the number of the track is the important one, as two tracks can be separated by a central platform they share. So either you number the platforms and have for instance 5A and 5B, or you number the tracks, even though the number may be written above or near the platform. So perhaps in Amsterdam “Spoor 5”, a sign mounted on a post arising from a platform, does refer to the number of the track (= the rails and associated supports that the train moves on).

  52. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. I think that “railroad track” is standard in Canada too.

  53. An American railroad “track” would be the steel rails the wheels ride on. (“You can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the track.”) The “platform” is where the passengers stand, in Chicago often up in the air. A railroad line is either a particular route “the blue line”, “the Ravenswood line” or the name of a company “the Burlington line”.

  54. I’m fairly sure that at Grand Central Station in NY, in the great space where Language met Ms Language, it says on the wall leading to the access to the trains ‘Track’ 29, ‘Track’ 30, etc. And now I think about it, it’s also on the Glenn Miller song, The Chatanooga Choo-Choo’.

  55. Except that in the song it’s Pennsylvania Station, not Grand Central.

  56. AGP,
    That doesn’t change the meaning of “track”. The tracks in our train stations are numbered too, but
    you might be able to access both track 3 and track 4 from the same platform. Or in the case of the El, you can catch both the outbound and the inbound trains on the same platform, although they obviously have to run on different tracks.

  57. “We” don’t use ‘track’ to mean that, sometimes a platform is just a platform. Now I’ve got that bloody Glen Miller song on the brain.

  58. I am pretty sure that the first time I traveled by train in Germany I briefly thought that “Gleis” meant platform rather than track, for reasons discussed above.
    “Gleis” had not come up in high school German class. “Zug” and “Bahnhof” I was ready for, and I could even say “Fahrt” without laughing.
    Another one I already knew was “hin und zurueck”. The reason why that one happens to stick in my mind is that one day in class I got “hin und zurueck” mixed up with “ab und zu”. It seems that the embarrassment that resulted from this mild display of amusement was sufficient to sear the experience into my brain. This happened almost forty years ago.
    (I don’t say that this is the best way for me to learn something. When I started composing this post I looked into some dusty compartment of my memory, found “ab und zurueck”, and almost typed it. It’s a mess in there.)

  59. David Marjanović says:

    you might be able to access both track 3 and track 4 from the same platform.

    Oh, so “platform” means the whole thing, like in Polish (peron, from obsolete French), rather than half of it (the half next to one track) as in German (Bahnsteig) and French (quai). Good to know. I was very surprised to find out in Katowice that any language has a word for the whole thing. If I ever meet the English teacher again whom I had for 7 years, I’ll have to ask her if she knows what platform actually means.
    Or is that just in America, and the Brits do it differently…?

    Here is a nice summary of Well’s Standard Lexical Sets, which come from his Accents of English.

    Very useful. Turns out I had several words in the wrong set because the spelling had confused me, because, out of sheer stupid tradition, scientific phonology isn’t taught in highschool, and because I had listened to different people without taking into account where they came from. Scary that that’s possible for someone with my education at my age in 2009.

  60. Or is that just in America, and the Brits do it differently…?

    It’s basically the American and British difference in (BrE)railway/(AmE)Railroad jargon. As far as I know, British always called the platform being the side of the track like the French quai whereas American called the whole thing one “platform” and calling the side one boards a “track”.

  61. A platform isn’t only for trains. You could build a platform for an outdoor rock and roll performance, for instance. There are also platform shoes.

  62. True, Nijma. But it seems that there were misunderstandings on the railway platform earlier, hence the explanation. Of course, platform means any raised bits from the ground originally.

  63. Oh, 28481k, I’m totally with your explanation, the American part at least. When it comes to the British, I’m still trying to work out “mind the gap.” I’m glad the Brits have figured out other uses for platforms–did I mention futon beds?–but when it comes to railroads (“railways”?), too bad they don’t see the whole thing as one structure worthy of its own word.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    English platform is from French plate-forme meaning literally “flat-form”, not just any “raised bits from the ground” but a horizontal area, usually deliberately constructed for a specific purpose. The French word does not always mean the same as the English word, for instance it is not used in the railway setting.
    In Paris stations the railway tracks (les voies) are numbered, not the platforms, most of which serve two tracks. The word quai usually means the built-up edge of a body of water, such as on the banks of the Seine in Paris, or a quay in a harbour, next to ships. By extension the word can also refer to the (edge of a) platform next to a railroad track, including in the Métro, where the quais are usually on both sides of the tunnel and the trains run on two opposite tracks in the middle.

  65. The British usage of ‘platform'(and as far as I know it’s common to most English except for N. America) is the Harry Potter one, where Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross gives access to one train, not two.
    The entire lump of asphalted rubble and infill, with its two platforms, must have a name in England, but I don’t know what that name is.
    “Mind the gap” is shouted by railway guards because of the tangential problem that arises when straight railway carriages are next to platforms that are curved (in plan). You’ll sometimes find this at London tube stations, but not, as far as I can remember, in the USA or most other places. I’d be interested to know if the reason is because (eg) the streets of many US cities are gridded, or if everyone else just decided it was nuts to let this problem occur and opted for straight platforms. At some stations (maybe Oxford Circus?) there’s a little bit of sliding platform that comes out to cover “the gap”; it retracts again before the train leaves the station.

  66. The British usage of ‘platform'(and as far as I know it’s common to most English except for N. America) is the Harry Potter one, where Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross gives access to one train, not two.
    The entire lump of asphalted rubble and infill, with its two platforms, must have a name in England, but I don’t know what that name is.
    “Mind the gap” is shouted by railway guards because of the tangential problem that arises when straight railway carriages are next to platforms that are curved (in plan). You’ll sometimes find this at London tube stations, but not, as far as I can remember, in the USA or most other places. I’d be interested to know if the reason is because (eg) the streets of many US cities are gridded, or if everyone else just decided it was nuts to let this problem occur and opted for straight platforms. At some stations (maybe Oxford Circus?) there’s a little bit of sliding platform that comes out to cover “the gap”; it retracts again before the train leaves the station.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    I like “Platform 9¾”. Seems typically eccentric British.
    I think that there are a few (slightly) curved stations in the Paris Métro too.

  68. or if everyone else just decided it was nuts to let this problem occur and opted for straight platforms.
    That certainly seems plausible. Why on earth would you want curved platforms? It’s like designing a curved case for a ruler.

  69. (for those, if any, who have not lost interest in this subthread)
    The WP article on railway platforms tells us:
    “The term platform is most commonly used, in British usage, for designated areas where trains stop (Platform 1, 2, 3, etc. Only Cardiff, Haymarket, Stockport and Uppsala have a platform 0 (zero); the American equivalent is track). ”
    (I am a little Ms Truss full of the punctuation in that parenthesis. Do Americans say “track” where people from those four train stations say “0”?)
    (Is there an Uppsala in Britain?)
    The article also has something to say about curvature and the gap.

  70. “Why on earth would you want curved platforms?”
    Possibly to avoid important preexisting underground things standing in the way — sewers and whatnot — or just to change direction.
    Maybe they just did it to see if Nij would fall through the gap.

  71. Only Cardiff, Haymarket, Stockport and Uppsala have a platform 0 (zero)
    I think Cardiff, Haymarket is one station, on the outskirts of Cardiff. Numbering a platform 0 is bound to happen sooner or later, where people subsist on seaweed and toasted cheese; it’s a rich mixture.

  72. So, somebody want to fix that WP article to say “Cardiff, Haymarket; Stockport; and Uppsala”?

  73. tgg: Crown is wrong, both Cardiff (Central) and Haymarket, Edinburgh have platform zero. They are both newly built platforms side of platform one which is why they are named zero.

  74. to see if Nij would fall through the gap
    I couldn’t find the gap they were talking about, much less fall through it. It was a recording that played over and over. Also the slogan was painted on the side of the er, platform.

  75. I’m not wrong. I said Cardiff, Haymarket is one station — which it is.
    which is why they are named zero.
    That’s a terrible reason for using zero. Platform 0 implies there is no platform. They ought to have used the name Platform 0.99 and simply built it a couple of feet shorter than Platform 1. Railway authorities have a duty to not confuse the public, 28481k.

  76. To Nij,
    You see what I did there? I used her or his name without a prefix — thereby saving myself the trouble and embarrassment of writing ‘Mr or Ms 28481k’. This is how things are done in Norway.

  77. This is how things are done in Norway.
    But can you speak for all of Norway? Have you blogged at every single Norwegian blog?

  78. I’m not wrong. I said Cardiff, Haymarket is one station — which it is.
    How can it be when Haymarket is in Edinburgh?
    /confused Yank

  79. Oh, well, if you insist, I might be wrong. It certainly looked as if there was a Haymarket in Cardiff yesterday.
    /confused Brit

  80. Norway is more than the sum of its blogs, Nij.

  81. nafahthi says:

    I deplore the common prejudice against the number zero. To me it is the most beautiful of all numbers. It also has had huge economic significance. This reminds me of that whole thing about bottom-feeding fish on another recent thread.

  82. Is beautiful numbers one of those categories like imaginary numbers or irrational numbers? Come to think of it, root two would be a good platform designation. It could go between Platforms 1 & 2.
    This reminds me of that whole thing about bottom-feeding fish
    It reminds me of the economic system where the goal is to get rid of all your alloted quantity of money and the ones who end up with zero win.

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