I didn’t think my “way out” question would generate much response

The Buzzer Blog  > Two SkyTrain stations get one new name

The original post is about the new name for Broadway Station and Commercial Drive Station.  The stations will now be combined and henceforth known as Commercial-Broadway Station.  That should reduce some of the confusion that some passengers are experiencing with the two Broadway Stations.

way out = exit

way out = exit

However, under the comments section, there’s been a small discussion on the naming of different things by TransLink.  One such name issue is the new “Way out” signs on the Canada Line.

One last naming convention that bugs me is the new “Way out” signs at Canada Line stations. What consultation showed that “Way out” is easier to understand than “Exit”? Back to the tourists’ point of view, “exit” is commonly learned English word. “Way out” is not a basic English word taught to ESL students. I used to teach ESL, so I know that much.

That was part of my initial comment.  Little did I know that I’d get quite a few responses.

ben k. was equally confused at the new naming convention for exits:

I’ve been baffled by “way out”, too. Not even a native English speaker says “way out” to mean “exit”, let alone a foreigner. The Skytrain “out” (sans “way”) was more acceptable. May as well post signs saying “upstairs” or “to the street” or “take off”.

It’s especially bizarre when you can look in one direction and see both a blue “way out” signs and a standard emergency red “exit” sign close by to one another. Almost wouldn’t blame someone for taking a fire door in an effort to escape the platform.


Then cree offered an explanation about why Canada Line may be using “Way out”:

@Henry, the “Way Out” signage is widely used in metro in London Underground. straight from Transport For London website:

“‘Way out’ should be used in preference to ‘exit’ on all signs except ‘emergency exit’ signs.”

Dora also chimed in with her experience in the UK.

“Way out” is pretty standard all across the UK (Tube stations, train station, etc.). Perhaps the Canada Line has decided to go Queen’s English? 🙂 Now I’m definitely looking forward to taking the Canada Line home (well, downtown to catch a 135 or 160) when I come back from the UK in a week!

I think David Arthur responded with the most intriguing answer:

Yes, I’ll add another vote in favour of both ‘Way out’ and platform numbering. It’s about time the Americanisation of Canada was brought to a halt. 🙂

Then I couldn’t help but add another comment:

Thanks for the info regarding “Way Out” as a standard in the UK. In my opinion, I would still prefer exit. That just seems more formal to me and proper for a public facility. The “Out” isn’t so bad in the old SkyTrain stations. We’re Canadians, so it’s not required that we follow the UK naming.

I wonder if there is more of an explanation why “way out” is preferred to exit in the Underground. Couldn’t we use “exit” versus “emergency exit”?

I’m just totally curious about what people think about that.

Then David Arthur follows up in another comment:

More formal? The only difference is that ‘way out’ is English, and ‘exit’ is Latin.

The ‘plain English’ movement is much stronger in Britain than here, so it’s nice to see Canadian authorities starting to get the message that it isn’t necessary to use overly complex language just so that they sound important.

The final comment up to the time of this post is from ben k.:

David, while I agree with you in sentiment about simplifying language where it is not served by complication, I find it amusing to suggest that “exit” is “overly complex language”! It’s almost half the length of “way out”, and a word that I suspect any kindergarten child would fully understand.

Well, I guess we’re stuck with “way out” whether we like it or not.  Although it looks like I could almost rip off the stickers on the signs and find “exit” underneath 🙂

The Plain English movement is new to me.  However, just like ben k., I can’t see how “exit” is overly complex.  Even if the word is Latin in origin, it is firmly entrenched in English today as an English word.


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