It's Transportational



The verb "transport" means "to carry across", its noun form means the "act of transporting". The root "-ation" is one of those vague Latinisms, meaning an action or process, and so Transportation is therefore "the act of the act of carrying across", a needless redundancy, it says the same thing more than once. We do not "transportate", why do we have "transportation"?

According to Google, the word "Transportation" yields about 423,000,000 results while the word "Transport" yields About 698,000,000 results. Like the Metric System this is one area the US trails the world in efficiency. The Chinese require only two characters 交通 (Jiaotong) where the US requires 14 to convey the same idea. The figures on the right illustrate the usage worldwide, and in American and British English respectively. This excess "ation" is costing Google alone more than 2 Gigabytes, assuming only one excess "ation" per page.

Another way of thinking about is if this were printed, This would be a library of 4230 books just containing the word "ation", which would occupy a large room in The Library of Babel

Surely the word "transportation" is uttered more 423,000,000 times per year (which is only 1.5 times per year per American). If these words were spoken at 0.5 seconds per excess "ation", it would take one speaker (let's say Ray LaHood) 6.7 years of non-stop talking (24//7/365) just to utter this excess language, at 2000 hours per year, it would take nearly 30 work years for this individual, in other words, a career. At an average salary of $196,700 per year for Mr. LaHood, he is costing society almost in excess of $6,000,000.

We can provide more than three meals a day, according to some charities, for a dollar a day

For $6 million dollars we could feed 6 million children for a day, or more than 300 children for 18 years. Think of the starving children next time you utter that excess "ation".

The excess "ation" is only slowing us down, and is emblematic of the transportation problems we have in the US. Transport is Faster, twice as fast, with only two syllables doing the work of the four syllables in "transportation". By dropping those five letters, transport pronunciation speeds will double. Our work will be twice as fast on three-sixths as much paper. Meetings will be 17 minutes shorter. In these times of government cut-backs, it is essential the transport community contribute by sacrificing, this reduction of transportation to transport is a 35% letter savings, a much greater savings than can be achieved with an ordinary signal retiming.

Commentations are welcome.


Since moving to Europe, I've come to learn that in a British context, not only is "transport" preferred on the grounds of brevity, but also because the word "transportation" has historical stigma from its use as a euphemism for deportation to prison, similar to "extraordinary rendition". See definition 2(c) in OED:

Wait, isn't 3/6ths the same as one-half?

Well, at least someone has a sense of humor these days. Or is it humour? Wait, rumour... colour... favour... Perhaps there's another article to be written on the characterial brinksmanship being waged by the Canadians and the Brits.

"The Transportist" doesn't have the same ring as "The Transportationist," however. Maybe I would get used to it.

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on April 1, 2011 1:01 AM.

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