Balcony v. Platform?

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Balcony v. Platform?

Postby Slava » Mon Jun 01, 2015 10:44 pm

This is a completely new British/American difference to me:

"...American trains with a balcony at the back (confusingly called a "platform")". Source.

Just what is a "platform" to my cis-Atlantic linguistic cousins?
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Re: Balcony v. Platform?

Postby bnjtokyo » Tue Jun 02, 2015 4:44 am

I'm not a Brit and I've never lived in Britain, but I assume that a "platform" in the context of a train and a train station in Britain would refer to the long waiting/standing area next to the track that is built up to the height of the floor (or deck) of the train carriage so that people getting out of the car or into the car do not have to step up or down. (As I recall, in Britain, as the doors on the train open, the recorded announcement reminds us to "mind the gap." One side of the "gap" would be the "platform" and the other side would be the interior of the train.)

I believe many railroad stations outside urban areas in the U.S. often do not have "platforms" in this sense. Passengers wishing to get on a train have to climb up several steps that are let down from the carriage when the train stops and the doors open.

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Re: Balcony v. Platform?

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:13 am

Look at Slava's reference to the source of his observation. This is not a discussion of the platform at the train station but of a platform at the back of a railway car. I see no confusion here. Brits and USAers do not use the same words to describe many things. In the USA the back of some railway cars have platforms. In England they have balconies. No one in the USA calls it a balcony. We could go into the detailed definitions of these two words, but it would not obtain to the current example. Brits speak differently than we do. No one is right or wrong on this issue. I think the writer from the source Slava quotes is a little too picky.
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Re: Balcony v. Platform?

Postby bnjtokyo » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:57 am

Slava asked
"Just what is a "platform" to my cis-Atlantic linguistic cousins?"
The article at the link does not define "platform" in the writer's dialect; the writer merely asserts that the American term "platform" is equivalent to the "balcony" in the writer's dialect.

Although l am not sure what Slava means by "cis-Atlantic," I assume the question seeks a definition of "platform" in a railroad context in British English. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English published by the Longman Group in Harlow and London and printed in Great Britain, "platform . . . 3 [C] a raised flat surface built along the side of the track at a railway station for travellers getting on or off a train."

Interestingly, definition 4 in Longman states "[the +R; C] (esp. in Britain) the open part at the end of a bus, where passengers enter and leave: 'Passengers may not travel on the platform.'" Perhaps the author of the article found it confusing to see "platform" refer to part of a TRAIN carriage when the author is accustomed to seeing the term used to refer to a part of a BUS.

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Re: Balcony v. Platform?

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:42 pm

Since it's been years since I've been on a train, I immediately thought of the platform as equivalent to a stage and the balcony as the second tier of seats at the rear of the theater. And by the way, has it struck anyone else as confusing that from outside the theater or the church, we may be looking at the front, but as soon as we enter the doors, we are magically standing at the back of the auditorium viewing the front? A quite magical exchange.

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