ever wanted to be that sexy voice on the train?

I certainly did, maybe still do.  Last week, the Washington Post's "Dr Gridlock" asked readers to call in to record their rendering of the following sentence:

“Next station L’Enfant Plaza. Transfer to the Orange and Blue lines. Doors open on the right.”

An odd choice for an audition text, since it raises all these American anxieties about Frenchness, manifested in the endless question of how frenchly to pronounce French names …

15 Responses to ever wanted to be that sexy voice on the train?

  1. Tom West May 14, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I’ve always thought place names (and other local proper nouns) should be pronounced however the locals do it, “proper” pronounication be damned.
    I once had to deal with Gwynedd Valley station near Philadelphia, and caused some confusion by pronoucning it the Welsh way (“gwe-neth”) rather the local way (“gwee-ned”).

  2. Aaron Priven May 14, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    I think it depends. There is a street in Alameda, California pronounced “Ver-sails”, but spelled “Versailles”. This is obnoxious.

  3. Zoltán May 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Mont-pee-lee-ur, Vermont. This is also obnoxious.
    I cannot for the life of me remember how L’Enfant is pronounced, despite having taken the metro there a whole lot. Anyone care to remind me?

  4. Wad May 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    I’d like a shot at an annunciator voice over. I do a very good impression of the Moviefone guy.

  5. Joseph Singer May 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    Or you could take the approach that the Brits do and that is to mangle the name however you please when you come across the name even if it has nothing to do with how the name should be pronounced. Then again Americans are champion with mangling names.

  6. Alon Levy May 14, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    There’s an official (I think?) recording on the WaPo page this post links to.

  7. JJJJ May 14, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    No official recording Alon. Every driver must announce the station. What is pre-recorded are the messages about doors closing.

  8. OctaviusIII May 15, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    For those unfamiliar with how locals say the station name, it’s almost French. I have no idea how to spell that phoenetically, much less in IPA.
    I’ve heard that it used to be pronounced like “Elephant Plaza”, but that’s mostly behind us. Still, Pierre L’Enfant prefered to be called Peter anyway, so he probably wouldn’t mind the Anglicization.

  9. Dexter Wong May 15, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I don’t know much about Washington DC station names, but I do know who makes announcements for the Honolulu city bus system. He is a professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii. It is important to have someone who knows the language and proper pronouciation so the announcements will be correct.

  10. John W May 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    How about being that comic voice on the train?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18050473
    Though it might get a bit tiresome if you commute on this line regularly, it would be quite fun to hear an announcement such as “We will shortly be passing through West Ruislip where we will be racing the Underground trains. Do please feel free to cheer for our driver.”

  11. Corentin May 17, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    L’Enfant is pronounced this way: “En” is the -an- sound in eleph-an-t and “fant” is pronounced like “phan” in ele-phan-t.
    Being french it would make sense for me but I believe it should be pronounced the way locals pronounce it, otherwise I am not sure if it would make sense for them pronounced the French way.

  12. Lucre May 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I typically hear something close to “luh FONT”.

  13. Heyrickie.wordpress.com May 30, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    How common is the announcement about which side the doors open? I’ve heard them on Portland MAX. I thought they might be useful for Vancouver SkyTrain.

  14. Jarrett at HumanTransit.org May 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Heryrickie. I think "doors open on the right" announcements are pretty routine now on double-sided vehicles, including BRT.

  15. John June 1, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    @Corentin
    “L’Enfant is pronounced this way: “En” is the -an- sound in eleph-an-t and “fant” is pronounced like “phan” in ele-phan-t.
    Honestly, you either speak bad French, or pronounce “elephant” strangely. I’m very familiar with both French (France) and Quebec French, and neither sound like what you wrote. “L’enfant” should sound like this: “lawn” with the “n” just barely pronounced, followed by “font” without the “t”.

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