The year is hardly over and I have just learnt a new word - "bedding-in". Singapore government officials, in this case, the LTA/SBS Transit engineers, attributed the signalling fault on the new Downtown Line 2 (DTL2) on day 3 as quite normal (Straits Times, 30 Dec 2015, page B2 - "Signalling fault causes delays on DTL2). No, in fact it is even to be expected. It is called bedding-in. Amazingly, the Transport Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, is happy to parrot this reason (excuse?) and leave things be. How long is the "bedding-in" period? We are told it is several months. However this leaves me none the wiser whether it means 2 months or 12 months. Hello, I would expect more precision from engineers, no? A variation of 10 months in an estimate just doesn't cut it for properly qualified engineers, or for that matter, a Minister paid in the million$.
As with all things new, I "asked" Google to "define bedding-in". Usually, Google will respond with a definition in a box, followed by a million or so links. Not so for bedding-in. It couldn't offer anything definite, just 2.14 million possibilities. Neither Collins English Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster could offer a definition. The closest word was "bedding". Only wordnik.com offered a link to its page on the word but even then, declined to define it.
Instead, it offered instances where the word has been used, listed on the right side of the web page. Most of its uses related to sports (soccer in particular) and politics. A single instance related to economics. The closest this word has been used in an engineering context is the laying of asphalt for F1 tracks, cited in the same list of examples. But train tracks aren't exactly made of asphalt, nor for that matter, signalling systems. Another use of bedding-in is for brake-pads. God help us if we need bedding-in for the braking system.
Well, I don't know what kind of engineers Mr Khaw has on staff, but they would appear to be soccer fans, going by their choice of word or analogy. I have no problems with new words being used, or words adapted for new meanings, but I do mind if it leads to muddle-headedness and imprecise thinking which gives the game (pun not intended) away.
The last thing that Ministers and engineers should do is fob off on the malfunction with bedding-in reasons.
P.S. Remember 'ponding'?