Language Abuse

Posted: Monday, November 30, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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We received a lovely gift from our daughter on Thanksgiving this past week..a beautiful bright red poinsettia plant which Linda is convinced she’ll somehow manage to kill off before the family gets a chance to see it when they come home for Christmas. 
I don’t know about you but both Linda and I have always pronounced the name of that flower Poin-setta..three syllables.  It turns out, though, that much of the world prefers the proper (read that snooty) four syllable pronunciation; Poin-set-ee-ah.  
My co-workers at Kelo were always correcting me until I showed them a dictionary that says either pronunciation is acceptable much like Cara-BEE-un and Cah-RIB-ee-un or Feb-YOU-ary and Feb-ROO-ary. Hemmingsen always teased me about saying Feb-YOU-ary until I pointed out that if it was good enough for Walter Cronkite, it was good enough for me.
Some say that mispronouncing words is a reflection on one’s intelligence. I don’t know if that’s true especially after seeing a story on NOVA recently in which an atomic scientist repeatedly said nuke-YOU-lur energy instead of the correct nuke-LEE-ur. 
Some of my best friends and family members say Nuke-YOU-lur or Real-AH-tor instead of REAL-tor or Pros-STRATE instead of pros-TATE when referring to that little gland that only men have and is so prone to cancer.
I do cringe when hearing such language abuses as, “I Could care less,” which is opposite of what you mean. Or, Anyways..with an unnecessary “s” at the end. Calvary is where Christ was crucified. Cavalry is what Custer was leading when he ran into all those Indians.
Mispronunciations likely have more to do with where you’re from and how your parents and grandparents spoke..than how bright you are. Both Linda and her friend, Joanie, came from different Midwest towns but were taught to say WARSH instead of WASH. I don’t know where the extra “R” comes from..probably from people in Maine or Massachusetts who often don’t bother using their “R’s” at all. “The Hahvad professah sat down to dinnah with his sistah and brothah eating food from the gahden.”
Me, I grew up believing that the place where mom kept my socks and underpants was a “chester drawers” and those flowers she had growing alongside the house were Pee-YO-nees and my dad wore over-HAULS to work every day.
When I first started in TV I was assigned to do a commercial in which I said that Ben Hur Ford was having a CLARANCE sale.  The director yelled, “Whoa..did you just call it a “clarance” sale..like the cross-eyed lion?”  That’s when I first discovered that stores have a CLEARance sale because they’re CLEARing out their inventory not just offering bargains to guys named Clarance.
I spent over 30 years in a profession in which proper pronunciation is not only expected, it’s mandatory. Yet those inaccurate utterances that were planted in my head as a child continued to pop out of my mouth right up until retirement.
I was recording a promo for a Keloland special sponsored by a furniture company. I kept saying SlumberLUND until promotional director Paul Farmer’s quiet voice came over the studio loudspeaker, “Uh, Doug..I believe that’s SlumberLAND.”
One of my most notable on-air faux pas came during a newscast when, after a story I turned to Angela Kennecke and said something about it having “grammarical” errors.  She looked at me as though I had snakes crawling out of my eyes and said, “Do you mean grammatical, Doug?”
Well, I turned as red as a baboon’s butt as we went to commercial.
When we returned from the break I tried to make light of my blunder blaming everyone from my parents, aunts and uncles to the English teachers at VHS.
After the newscast I got word that the general manager would like to see me in his office. As I entered, he just shook his head and said, “Well, at least you covered yourself nicely.” And that was it.
He’s the one responsible for getting all KELO reporters and anchors to be consistent in the pronunciation of IRAQ. “It’s not EYE-RACK,”he said. (Although that’s how a majority of people, including soldiers, say it) It’s either EAR-RACK or EAR-ROCK. After consulting with Qadir Aware of Sioux Falls, a native of the country in question, we settled on EAR-ROCK.
In researching for this blog I’ve come across words and phrases that I continue to screw up such as: Card SHARKS instead of the correct card SHARPS. Tijuana has just three syllables..not four. Silicon is the valley where computers are made. Silicone is what surgeons implant in woman to create bigger valleys.
Oh, well I guess you can teach an old pundent new tricks. Wait a minute..it’s PUNDIT isn’t it?

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