bad anglish

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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.

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

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 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. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. 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.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.