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    bad anglish

    You’re on the Air

    by | 3 | Jun 30, 2014

    Image: the photo of the woman with fingers in her ears was licensed by LikeTheDew.com - copyright: bruno135 / 123RF Stock Photo http://www.123rf.com/profile_bruno135

    How much more slovenly can broadcast speech become? I can’t be the only one who wonders, and I’m surprised at how often the slovenly speech comes from the lips of top-of-the-line communications professionals.

    Hardly a day goes by that some network news announcer somewhere doesn’t talk about “Present Obama.”

    He (or she) is referring to the “Present” of the United States, of course.

    And if I’ve heard “opportunies” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly pass up the “opportuny” to hear it again.

    And how about “unfortunely?”

    And “fedder reserve?”

    This list could go on and on. Feel free to add some of your own.

    Some of these neologisms are rooted, I suspect, in a belief that air time requires one to talk fast. To an extent, it does. But dropping syllables to shorten words, and therefore sentences, is hardly a suitable route to brevity. Commercial speech should call attention to itself for its content, not its substandard language.

    And, please, Mr. and Mrs. Anchor Person: if you can’t pronounce “peculiarities” and “particularly,” try “oddities” and “specifically” instead. For some reason, “particularly” ties more tongues than first love does. Haven’t heard it pronounced correctly on the air since about 1948. I admit it’s a doozie even off the air and often loses even two of its five syllables, as in “pa-tik-ly.” Ouch!

    While you’re at it, Professional Communicator, please learn how to say “vulnerable.” It is not, repeat not, “vunrable.”

    And the word is “REAL-tor,” two syllables, not REla-tor,” which is three syllables (and simply wrong all around).

    And it’s “OYS-ter,” not “OYS-cher.”

    And the word “err,” (as in “To err is human”) rhymes with “her,” not with “hair.”

    And let’s not forget the word “hundred.” This simple little word has been mangled so badly for so long (“hunnerd,” “hunner,” “hunnah”) that anybody who happens to say it right is likely to be corrected.

    One more and I’ll quit (for the day): The word “forte” is pronounced “fort,” one syllable, not “for-tay.” To mispronounce it is a guaranteed way to look unsophisticated while trying to make the opposite impression. It’s a sure one-two punch to your image.

    Luckily there’s a cure for all of the above bloopers and their many, many relatives: LOOK IT UP.

    Yes, as in “dictionary.”

    Back when I was a brand new reporter, in Augusta, new newsroom employees were handed – in the first hour of the first day – a dictionary and a style book, and advised to use them. I found it to be good advice then and excellent advice a while later when I wrote an editorial congratulating a local politician on his “moral turpitude.”   Luckily, an eagle-eyed editor caught it before it saw publication, but the close call shortened his life span by 10 years, I think, and nearly aborted my fledging career.

    ###
    Robert Lamb

    Robert Lamb

    I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After a stint in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English (Class of '61). I began my (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and went to work for The Constitution in, I think, 1976. I left in Sept. '82 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award and my second (Atlanta Blues, in 2004) contended for an Edgar Award. My latest novel won no honors but might well get me nominated for a hanging. Titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in a small Georgia town. I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.com and I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.

     

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    • Eileen Dight

      As an interpreter, I’ve a keen ear for speech and have noticed the offending swallowing of syllables increasingly imposed upon us, to which you refer. Thanks for airing this. Most often I’ve noticed it in young student voices apparently intending to sound ‘cool’ and casual. It makes me shudder too. As do the words ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’. Overhearing some university students in conversation I cringed at one young woman’s use of ‘like’ scattered, like, liberally in her sentences.

      Many mispronounced words stem from foreign sources and are used erroneously out of ignorance. Forte (fortay) as ‘strength’ from French, where French is not spoken. ‘No problemo’ I hear repeatedly, but in Spanish it’s ‘problema’ (an exceptional masculine word ending in ‘a’). Such errors creep into a language unobserved.

      But there is no excuse for gobbling syllables, inviting us to guess the intervals as in a game of ‘join the dots’ leaving out numbers.

      One geriatric cringe-maker: ‘pacific’ when they mean ‘specific’. That one has been around forever.

      And while I’m venting, why does my computer routinely change ‘its’ to ‘it’s’ when I refer to something belonging to its owner? I have to go back and correct the computer!

      Phew! I feel better now.

      • Bob Lamb

        Well said!

        Glad to know I’m not alone in this. My latest annoyance is hearing people drop the “of” after “couple,” as in “We have a couple tickets.”

    • Steamboat

      Remember (or ‘Member) the 2008 Presidential election where Senator McCain began refering to his opponent as “Sinner Obama” towards the end. I do not think it was merely sloppy speech, but an intentional slur.

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