One of the pet peeves of the British English-speaking language pedants has traditionally been the usage of Americanisms, which we have written and surveyed our readers about in our previous posts. In my research of the complaints about language use, I can safely say that criticism of Americanisms constitutes one of the major complaint trends among those who speak or model their speech on British English. “Fall” is replacing “autumn”, “bus” ran over “omnibus”, “Mother’s Day” is celebrated instead of “Mothering Sunday”. Another phrase which seems to be on its way out is “railway station” soon to be replaced by “train station”. The BBC style editor Ian Jolly gives an account here of the BBC’s (accepted) usage of “train station” and the audience’s predominantly negative response to it. “Railway station” predates “train station” and it has been used almost exclusively in both American and British English prior to the 1930s when according to the data taken from the Corpus of Historical American English “train station” first started to occur in wider usage in American English. The increase in frequency of “train station” in American English seems slightly more delayed in the chart taken from the Google Ngram Viewer, but it clearly shows that in 1986 the frequency of “train station” matched “railway station” and its use has been soaring ever since. The same phenomenon seems to be now reflected in British English. In the British National Corpus, covering the period between 1980s and 1993, “train station” is used mostly in spoken language, which is the door through which change usually enters language. According to the Google Ngram Viewer, the situation has dramatically changed since then. Those who are opposing the American invasion will be glad to see that “railway station” is still in the lead, however, only by very few instances. One complaint from The Times about the usage of the phrase says:
I recently heard Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple instruct a taxi driver to take her to the ‘train station’. Not in 1950s England, I think.
With BBC on board and corpus evidence, I wonder if it will survive in wider usage until 2050.
This is a fascinating post, Morana, on an aspect of language usage that I’d never actually thought about until now! I wonder, though, whether your reference to ‘train station’ in the second graph shouldn’t actually be to ‘railway station’….
Indeed, thanks for the hint, Tony!
We say “Mothering Sunday”, never “Mothering Day”
Another sadness is the BBC’s almost universal embracing of the American ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ such and such a street. ‘On Wall Street’, yes; ‘On Bond Street’ NO. The younger country should follow us; not vice versa. This after all is the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation.
Might be remnants of colonialism, I think.
But I believe, we use ‘railway station’ in India.
I might start using ‘train station’ while in Australia.