Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The less men think, the more they talk." - Charles de Montesquieu

It is not particularly propitious to title a Journal entry thus. In deference to Baron de Montesquieu -- the Enlightenment inventor of "separation of powers" -- all one need do is to get a little wordy and one's cognitive capacity is called forever into question. Just keep in mind that I didn't write a chunk of it. That part in the middle. In the other font. Not me.
I was curious as to whether the media could yank itself away from the Angry Imbeciles Jamboree that is national politics under the tinpot tyranny of the Tea Party Coup long enough to report the latest proposal to prepare to undertake some sort of future consideration of a "Master Plan" at New Bedford's Buttonwood Park Zoo.
As long-time readers of this Journal know, I have been, on occasion, philanthropically-inclined -- although I could care less about whatever ponyrodeo some busybody concocts to amuse the edacious juvenile demographic. (Any community with residents who have habitually intoned the mantra "I wish we had this we we were kids" for more than two generations should take a long look at its social and intellectual infrastructure.)
Like, uh, its radio station.
I made a colossal misjudgment, and listened for some interesting constituent input concerning the ambitions of the SouthCoast's largest attraction. I could make out on the crystal set some discernible particles of ether from the local noise pollution outlet (the New Bedford one that denies the existence of a Fall River, not the Fall River one that denies the existence of a New Bedford).
As expected, I was treated to the usual unrehearsed monotonal "rip-and-read" from some uncredited source, breathy outrage at some fanciful misapprehension of administration policy, and complaints about the media's left-wing bias -- with no hint of irony. Their internationally-known teevee pundit and Conservative Blogger afternoon and afternoon drive host mispronounced satirist Stephen Colbert's name ("cole burt" instead of "cole-bare") while also making a point of clearly and politically-correctly delivering the Persian enunciation of "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."Janeane's birthday was yesterday. Celebrated, I'm sure, by a certain drive-time host. Which put me in mind of the horrible Saturday Night Live skit about news announcers' risible use of affected foreign place pronunciations that shocked American ears when Canadian Peter Jennings started doing it in the Eighties. Here's a short transcript. Which I have found on some NBC website and edited for length because SNL skits are mere annoying prattle after the amusing premise is established and then beaten to death within the first thirty seconds.

"NBC News Employees"
Robin Fletcher.....Julia Sweeney
Kathy.....Jan Hooks
Dan.....Phil Hartman
Executive #1.....Dana Carvey
Executive #2.....Mike Myers
Antonio Mendoza.....Jimmy Smits
[ open on live footage of Robin Fletcher delivering news report ]

Robin Fletcher: The fighting, for now, is over. But, for the people of Nicauragua, that is small consideration. This is Robin Fletcher for NBC News, reporting from Managua, Nicaragua. [ TV is turned off, zoom out to reveal NBC News employees watching with interest ]
Kathy: What do you think?
Dan: Well, it's a nice report.. but is this the week to cover.. [ thick-accented ] ..Neek-o-rah-gwa?
Kathy: Well.. I think Neek-o-rah-gwa is important. But not just Neek-o-rah-gwa but, also.. Han-der-us! And, especially.. El Salv-uh-door!
Executive #1: But wasn't the big story the defeat of Hor-tay-ga! And.. the fall of the san-duh-nees-tahs!
Executive #2: Excuse me, everybody, I'd like you to meet our new Economics correspondent.. Han-toe-nee-o Man-dos-ah!
Antonio Mendoza: Or.. Antonio Mendoza.

It goes on and on ... Which is what the radio guy did. He repeated the mispronunciation an uncomfortable number of times. He had "never heard" of this insignificant "Colbert."
SouthCoasters have been mispronouncing names for hundreds of years. At first, settlers mispronounced native Wampanoag words in order to demonstrate settlers' proprietary rights over the land and its quahogs. Then, it was anglicizing one's name so that the other guys on the ship or in the mill wouldn't think that you were a stinking immigrant and deny you a job, raise, promotion, bunk, or meal.
The passive-aggressive discourtesy of not calling someone by their preferred name or by its preferred pronunciation is just one charming tool in the SouthCoast social skillset. It's pretty common around here.
Aks anyone.
(This presentation includes a photograph of Janeane Garofalo.)

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