Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Syreen Sounded Its Warning

That day in Fairfield Prep (more formally: Fairfield College Preparatory School), a student from the sticks mentioned "the fire syreen" --as he pronounced siren-- and a few city kids snickered. The teacher made a quick save and said this pronunciation was correct, as was the more common "siren." He was right and, as Casey Stengel once said, "You could look it up."

I was out with mom one day when we heard one of these in the near distance. "When you hear a siren," she said, "you know that somebody's day was just ruined."

Whether it was the Sirens of Greek mythology who lured mariners to destruction by their singing, or the sirens on emergency vehicles of today, it's not a sign of good news. In mythology, mariners willingly drove their vessels onto the rocks, the siren call was so hard to resist. If you watch those "wildest police chase" programs on tv, people drive their cars at high speeds, often into rocks or ditches, because the police siren is something they find very easy to resist. The others (ambulance, fire truck) are simply "Get out of my way" indications: pull over, get onto the sidewalk, do anything, but let us get through.

Although they indicate that something has gone wrong, they also let us know that people are on the way to rectify the situation: the dangerous driver will be convinced to shape up; the fire will be extinguished; the injured person will be taken to a hospital. The initial "something's wrong" sound also has its "help is on the way" component.

Siren or syreen, it's bad news about to be changed to good.


Blogger Reading Reader said...

Too bad that dangerous drivers can't be convinced to shape up by a mere siren. If that were true, I would attach a permanent siren to J. Politz's head.

May 09, 2006 4:56 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

...the dangerous driver will be convinced to shape up...

* * *

I was thinking in terms of the siren on a cop car, the police pulling the person over and that use of it resulting in a more conscientious driver.

May 09, 2006 6:39 PM  
Blogger Cold Josh Vail said...

Syreen or Siren.....in French Sirène, and all three promise some kind of exitement.

May 12, 2006 7:14 PM  
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