Monday, October 29, 2007

Here I stand; I can do no other

Martin Luther's famous words seem to make an apt heading for today's piece. Crossing the harbour by tunnel bus on Saturday, I was wedged in, unable to move, against the notice of licensed (and routinely exceeded) capacity which appears on every public bus in Hong Kong. I don't remember the actual numbers, but it was something like this:

Upper deck: 72
Lower deck: 48
Standees: 28

Being a compulsive proofreader and amateur etymologist, I fell to wondering if "standees" was the right word. If we rely on the analogy with other words such as employee (one who is employed), trainee (one who undergoes training) and payee (one who is paid), then "standee" should surely mean, not one who stands, but one who is stood upon. The correct form should perhaps be "standers", or more readably, "standing passengers".

On the other hand, considering the experience of trying to board an overcrowded bus at peak hours in Hong Kong, with other passengers stomping wildly on one's toes from every direction, perhaps "standees" is correct after all!

1 comment:

962 said...

In one of those head up the arse moments, so common in our city, I am led to believe legislation will be introduced to force people to wear seat belts on buses.

Those who do not have a seat will be allowed to smash their way through the windscreen of the bus when it hits a vehicle in front.

On this basis the trerm standees will be replaced by the term "unfortunate fuckwits"