The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

February 10, 2005

Metro thoughts

According to my site statistics, 2% of my visitors are using Netscape 3.0 to access my heavily stylesheet-dependent Vienna Metro website. Since Netscape 3 doesn't support about half the tags and stylesheets I'm using there, I wonder what just exactly they might be seeing. At any rate, 2% of Netscape 3 users seems an awful lot. Makes you wonder who they are, where they are, and why they are still using it when it can't display most current pages.

On a related note, I'm not sure if "Vienna Metro" is a good name for the site. I wonder what word people are using to search information on an underground railway in English, but I fear that it's probably not "metro". That, and the fear that I might at some point be sued by the Metro Group for using the word "metro" (they think they are owning the word — even though recent law suits would indicate otherwise — and almost closed down Robert Schwandl's site when it was still at made me think about whether I shouldn't use a different word instead.

Problem: "subway" and "underground" both mean very different things depending on whether they are used in British or American English. And "metro" is kind of correct in the case of Vienna, as the first underground railway was called "Stadtbahn" (="metropolitan railway"). So if any native speakers would enlighten me whether "metro" is a good or bad choice of word, I'd be very thankful.

Posted by Horst on February 10, 2005 10:30 PM to the body electric | Tell-a-friend

Splee said on February 11, 2005 09:36 AM:

I know it doesn't roll off the tongue all that well, but it describes what you want:

Vienna Subterrainian Transport.

Or you could shorten it to Vienna Sub-T Transport.

Ok, yeah... it's lame, but it's the first thing that popped into my head. :P

Walt Crawford said on February 11, 2005 04:47 PM:

"Metro" is certainly used for some mass transit systems (underground/subway and otherwise) in the U.S. and elsewhere. I don't know that the word itself conjures up "subway system" in American English, but it's not misleading.

Josh Cogliati said on February 13, 2005 06:02 PM:

If you want to see what it looks like in with out stylesheets and such, one option is to go to Web Page Backward Compatibility Viewer which will strip away those features. Your page looked at least marginally useful.

scott partee said on February 14, 2005 12:30 PM:

I think of all the options, you already have the best. "Subway" and "sub" anything imply all underground, which Vienna's transit trains are not in all cases. Underground is, to me, a specific system (London).

In Atlanta, we have a similarly configured system (both above and underground on the same trains) and I used to always just call it "the subway" or "The MARTA" which is the name of the transit authority. But in actuality, nearly everybody calls it "the train." That wouldn't work in Vienna, where you have numerous rail-based options.

In conclusion, although it seems a little odd to call it one, keep it at "Metro". If you're worried that English readers won't think to search for "metro", try using a sub-heading and keywords or description meta data that hits all the English options like "subway, mass transit, public transportation."

BTW, your Metro site is by far the most concise and useful one on the web.

nora said on February 16, 2005 01:05 AM:

well, tv commercials here suggest that the volkswagen was built for the autobahn, so the u-bahn could be the u-bahn, especially since the lines are called U whatever. but actually, i would stick to metro, too. underground is hogged by london, although it's the tube over there.

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