Shall we add to the list of the ways the Times lies to its readers?

Denny Lee spent a whopping 36 hours in Toronto (much of it in Leslieville) and claimed that “trolleys run like clockwork.” This is false two ways.

  1. We don’t have trolleys here. A trolley is a bus. The last trolley buses were exterminated in 1992. A streetcar is not a trolley. It isn’t a subway, either, or a leprechaun.

    I reported this to the error-prone journal. Carl Sommers wrote back thus:

    You… note that “trolley buses” have been discontinued, but there do seem to be trolley cars on rails in Toronto. Those, too, would qualify as trolleys….

    The Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, which the New York Times uses as its dictionary of reference, defines a trolley car as “a public streetcar that gets its motive power from an overhead wire.” It gives a separate definition for trolley bus as “an electric bus that is powered from overhard [sic] wires.”

    So, though you consider “trolley” and “trolley bus” to be synonymous – and perhaps this is a distinction made throughout Toronto – we would not.

    The piece, as written, lies to its readers and claims there are four modes of public transit in Toronto: Trolleys, streetcars, buses, and subways. There are only three. The dictionary is simply wrong.

    Then again, this is a paper that refused to use terms like “Ms.” or “gay” in the senses everyone else used, so I assume Sommers views this as a proper triumph of an outdated reference work over the actual reality of the city being covered.

  2. Streetcars do not “run like clockwork.” I am on a first-name basis with the two SAC supervisors at the Russell yard who do nothing but make sure one line stays reasonably on schedule some of the hours of the day.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.05.15 15:16. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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