Prehistoric monuments, Roman towns, Renaissance art; I do like things with a bit of history to them, and whilst I recognise the need for progress I don’t always see it as an improvement as I’ve written before about 1960’s architecture.
These values extend to language too. It’s probably rooted in studying Latin many years ago that I’m interested in the etymology of words, they way they have grown over time through prefix and suffix, and the source of their original meaning. With the decline in the study of Classics I find myself in the minority these days.
Look up a simple work like “bus” in the dictionary and you might be lucky to see it derives from the word omnibus, though that word is likely to be defined as an old word for bus or wagon. You’ll be really lucky to discover that it is the Latin word meaning “for all” which was adopted as a nickname for these forms of transport in the 19th Century, probably in France.
The democratic connotations of this means of getting around became enshrined in English legal terminology when the term “the man on the Clapham omnibus” was referred to as a way of describing some mythical man of reason in the general populace. Though recorded in a decision of Lord Justice Greer in 1932, the phrase is also supposed to date back to the 19th Century.
In the North East of England we have grown accustomed to the word “Metro” to describe the light railway system that joins Wearside and Tyneside. Again if you were to look for this word in a dictionary it would probably define it as referring to an underground railway, such as ours or the original in Paris. The London Underground more accurately has a Metropolitan line, pointing to the true origins of the word. Whilst “Metropolis” may be simply the workplace of Clark Kent’s alter ego to many, or the name of Fritz Lang‘s cinematic masterpiece, it originates in Ancient Greek and means “Mother City“.
And as everyone has a mother, so the Metro in Tyneside is used by all. As car park charges and fuel prices increase, so the attraction of a cheap rail link grows, with the spin-off that cars are left behind and we burn less carbon. Like a mother she cares for all, making sure that kids get to school and party people get home.
She appears from nowhere to ferry people to and from work, whether manual labourer or white collared business man. Alighting from one of carriages today I met John. What better name to represent those who travel in this way?
BTW – if Metro means mother, what does that make a metrosexual?