Monthly Archives: March 2010

Chile, Chili, or Chilly – The World Is Complicated

If I say ‘toe-mah-toe’ does that assure me a better seat than if I say ‘toe-may-toe?’

The Chilean earthquake tragedy made all in the United States, if not the entire world, know how to pronounce ‘Chile’ and ‘Chilean.’ My entire life I walked around pronouncing it ‘Chilly.’ Own up to it, so did everybody else. I wonder how many people through out my life made fun of me and talked behind my back for mispronouncing the tiny sliver of land on the west coast of South America? The people who made fun of me probably thought it was the Mediterranean island where chili peppers are grown and processed.

When in Rome – don’t try to sound Italian

Frankly, aren’t we getting just a bit too precise? Do people from other countries really get offended if we give an American twist to their language. Do they think more of us if we try it with their accent and pronunciation?

Are we going to start calling it ‘Deutschland’ instead of ‘Germany?’ The next thing you know when we start talking about France we will bring out our best ‘Inspector Clouseau” French accent. “Pardon moi, but I am ex-pec-TING a phune cyall froom Pa-REE.” We really end up sounding like clowns when we try to sound anything other than who we are.

If I am held up by some Mexican illegal and he says, “Okay reeeech fat cat Americano handt over you walleet.” I’m not going to say, “Hey Ricardo Montalbon, not until you lose that accent and stop rolling your ‘r’s.”

How many ways are there to pronounce the countries of Qatar or Pakistan? It is like a competitive word pronunciation tournament. ‘I can be more precise than you. So take that Fox News. We at NBC and MSNBC offend no one with colloquialisms and a myopic view of the world revealed by strictly American pronunciations.’

Does The Media Always Get it Right?

I hate it when all the sudden the media get a hold of something they have done incorrectly for ages and then all the sudden do it right as if they were doing it right all along. Why not own up to the mistake first. Oh, they are perfect, silly me. They never make mistakes.
For years, the globe on the NBC Nightly News spun the wrong way during the opening of the telecast. One night, to everybody’s dismay (including the earth’s), they owned up to the mistake and started the earth spinning in the right direction. Really, the earth spinning in the wrong direction, somebody had to own up to that one. An internal memo suggested they might first blame god. Can we trust someone who can’t get the spinning of the globe right with how to pronounce Chile, Nicaragua, or Cote d’Ivoire?

Was there a decision somewhere by some editor or a member of the politically correct police that said, ‘We are offending millions of people around the world? Let’s all start rolling our ‘r’s’ when we pronounce any Latin name.” It was somewhat weird. During the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation proceedings for the Supreme Court it was like listening to a Dulcolax commercial and all the sudden when they get to her name they spin the dial to Radio Havana.

Did Robert McNeil of PBS’s McNeil/Lehrer report have to learn how to say ‘White House’ instead of ‘hoose.’ Do broadcasts originating in the U.S. and sent to Canada have an “ay” dubbed at the end of each sentence? How far does one have to go so as not to offend?

Does my Chi-Lay come with Lee-ma beans?

What if everybody went into a Wendy’s and asked for a bowl of Chi-LAY? Or it sure is a Chi-LAY day. ‘How bout some fries a la Fraun-SAY and und sandwich ach haum-burg?’ Have you ever heard a French diplomat speaking in French and suddenly come upon the word ‘United States?’ He doesn’t brake into a Gomer Pyle ‘Un-i-terd States.’

For my part whether it’s a cold day, a bowl of soup, or a South American country they’re all “CHILLY” to me.  And by the way, the next time somebody says ‘Lee-ma,’ Ohio instead of Lima, stuff a Lima bean up their nose.

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Why Smart People Say Stupid Things


You Can Always Tell How Stupid A Person Is By How Smart They Sound

Some expressions become trendy especially by the news media. It is a phrase that sounds good, avant-garde, chic, informed, and edgy, but has little real meaning. There is something else strangely similar about them. They place the listener at a psychological and intellectual disadvantage. It is as if the intent is to categorize or rank both the speaker and listener.

A Teachable Moment

Here is a phrase that leaves me wondering, ‘we can all use this a teachable moment.’ What is being said is that you people are really too dense to notice. The speaker contrived this entire debacle to teach something. They portray themselves as so smart their screw-ups can teach the ill informed and less fortunate dregs of society. They will now dazzle you with some of the finest instruction you have ever received. The reality is they put a foot in the mouth. Everybody knows it. Let’s just call it something else.

National Dialogues

Another ‘foot in the mouth moment’ is when the perpetrator realizes a faux pas and says, ‘this merely brings to light we need a national conversation or dialogue on this subject. In other words, you should thank me because I have the courage to bring this subject to light. I’m merely being courageous and outspoken.’ The reality is ‘I just got caught off guard and revealed my real prejudice, insensitivity, and intellectual vapidity.’ When people start talking about any type of dialogue, national or otherwise, that’s the signal to go to sleep. It’s going to take them a year or two to arrive at the same conclusions everybody else already holds. Only smart people have dialogues.

What Happened To Tidal Wave?

If ‘tsunami’ is behind any word it becomes better and more attention grabbing. I never heard the word until about five years ago and neither did anyone else. Didn’t we call them ‘tidal waves?’ Think about it, ‘tidal,’ isn’t that something that happens all the time. It sounds peaceful and natural. Remember the song Ebb Tide, melodic and serene. What about ‘wave’ isn’t that the soft little curl in your hair or what you do when you say ‘good bye?’ Take any word from Japan and it becomes mysterious, foreboding, angry, brutal – Bonsai, Tora Tora Tora, Karate, Kamikaze, TSUNAMI! Look out here comes a TOYOTA!

Defining Moments

News anchors like to reach out the definitive conclusion by using the term ‘defining moment.’ Unless they are clairvoyant who really knows? People in the public eye are so full of themselves that they believe they can define moments by their shear will or in other words be able to pin point when sperm fertilizes the egg. Sportscaster Brent Musburger always had the habit during a game of saying ‘Mark this down. At the 2 minute and 37 second point of the third quarter is when the game changed.’ As it turns out the game seldom changes there. It just makes him sound as if he’s an astute observer – far greater than we mere mortals are.

Journalists are always trying to come up with words or phrases that can economize a thought in as little space as possible. I suppose we do it all the time in everyday speech, but these words and phrases partition people. The journalist is actually drawing conclusions for you. ‘This is the conclusion you should reach (if you were smart like me – the journalist). It also informs the listener this is possibly not for him. It is for smarter people. So when White House staff was ‘vetted’ that was a signal that common people should not be concerned otherwise they would have ‘checked him out,’ or ‘scrutinized.’ For goodness sakes, one knows that if a boy dates your daughter if you only ‘vet’ him you’re liable to miss something. When he’s ‘checked out’ or ‘scrutinized’ you not only know what’s in his wallet, but the miles on his odometer and the mileage to the tenth to and from the movie theater and when your daughter comes home they better have ticket stubs, know the plot, sub plot, and quote lines. You miss all of that with ‘vetting.’

Optimistic Of Failure

My favorite catch phrase is ‘cautiously optimistic.’ Frankly, I’m not sure what it really means. It is almost in the class of an oxymoron. Don’t they really mean ‘we doubt the best possible outcome,’ but what optimist wants to say ‘doubt?’ It’s like a boxer saying, ‘I’m going to win, but don’t be surprised if I get my butt kicked.’

Words are not only spoken to inform and lead, but also to conceal and mislead.

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