- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005


In a little room in the basement of Metro headquarters, a training class sounded a bit like the musical “My Fair Lady.”

But rather than getting subway drivers to say “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain,” the focus was on the train — as in where the next one is headed.

If it’s Virginia, how many syllables does the state really have? There’s only room for three aboard this class. After all, it’s “vuhr-GIHN-yah” not “vuhr-gih-NEE-yah.”

Train drivers and customer service announcers yesterday practiced saying “Grosvenor” and “L’Enfant” correctly.

When one employee gave up the final “T” and pronounced “lahn-FAHN Plaza” correctly, the group cheered.

Former Washington news anchor Doris McMillon borrowed a line from Rex Harrison’s character, joking, “By jove, I think she’s got it!”

But unlike Eliza Doolittle’s classes in the legendary musical, Metro’s elocution training lasts two days, not months.

Miss McMillon said those who mispronounce the stations do it because that is how they have always heard it. She believes the key is to retrain the ear to hear the word correctly.

Once that happens, Miss McMillon said the results can be almost instantaneous — and retained with practice.

Sharon Thompson, a Metro employee for 28 years, is a communications administrator who announces elevator failures.

“I used to say Grosvenor ‘GROHZ-veh-nor’ and it’s ‘GROHV’-nor.’ I used to put the ‘s’ in there,” Miss Thompson said. “I was on the train the other day and I heard GROHZ-veh-nor and I thought, ‘Oh-oh, they haven’t been to class yet.’ ”

Miss Thompson said pronouncing the names uniformly is important to keep customers from getting confused or — even worse — lost. A city full of tourists, some from other countries, makes it even more important, she said.

Tabatha Hawkins said she used to mispronounce “L’Enfant Plaza” and “Clarendon” when she drove an Orange Line train for five years. This class will help her in her new job — training the train operators.

She plans to impart the correctly pronounced station names to the 25 new drivers graduating in August. With any luck, those assigned to Maryland will say “meh-REE-land” not “meh-RAH’-lyn.”

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