Why the 'moderate' pedant has never had it so good
By PETER BRENT
IT IS a fact known
to anyone working in an organisation with a public profile that the
e-mail provides too-easy access for all manner of loonies.
Whereas once they had to
phone and interface with a living being, and so face their own
shortcomings, now any spontaneous gripe can be composed and clicked
off in a second.
am one such looney. It comes from spending much time on the Internet
with the radio on, and my bugbear is pronunciation of the names of
foreign people and places. I predominantly loon to the poor old ABC,
and their responses have been so exemplary as to me make feel a
last looned ago when a routine perusal of the ABC website drew me to
the feedback button and set in motion the following stream of
I'm only a moderately pedantic person regarding pronunciation, but .
. . Now that Tony Eastley will be reading the TV news nightly in
NSW, can your ABC person-who-knows-these-things find out if his
habit of pronouncing Osama as 'Ozama' is correct. If it is, then
perhaps we should all be doing it. If not, is there any way of
getting him to pronounce it with an 's', as it grates, and we shall,
of course, be hearing the word regularly for the next year at least.
All the best, Peter.'' Only a few days later, a kind lady responded:
''Dear Peter, Thank you for your e-mail pointing out the
pronunciation error made by Tony Eastley. I have arranged for an
appropriate person to draw the error to Tony's attention. We
appreciate your interest in pronunciation on the ABC, and I hope you
will continue to tune in to the ABC with a critical ear. Yours
sincerely . . .''
See what I mean? Self-indulgent smart-arsery meets
So impressed was I that I fired back another,
thanking her and providing some tips on Indonesian pronunciation in
general and ''Megawati'' in particular. (For the reader's benefit,
when saying the latter, the second "a'' should sound like the first,
that is, like the "u'' in "bus'' rather than like an "o''.)
That one got a polite
response too, though with a touch of frost to discourage further
correspondence. I took the hint.
Why should I care if Tony Eastley gives Osama a
hard "s''? Does it hurt anyone? These things don't interest me
because I am a looney.
My first loon was a fax to ABC radio news and
current affairs circa September, 1999. The topic was "Falintil'',
the East Timorese independence fighters. An epidemic was sweeping
the airwaves that rendered it ''FalAntil'' with an emphasised second
"A'' that should have been an "i''! Worse, this disgraceful
condition was creeping into the written word in newspapers.
Obviously action was needed.
So I informed them that as FALINTIL is actually a
Portuguese acronym there can be no question of the spelling. I named
the worst repeat offender a reporter called Rafael Epstein and
finished with the joke that perhaps Aussie journalists were too used
to ordering (and pronouncing) falafels. I also mentioned, needless
to say, Megawati.
Again a prompt and courteous reply, this time a
letter from Mark Colvin, anchor of current-affairs show PM.
He failed to mention my witticism, but commiserated with my
frustration and informed me that Rafael had actually been
reprimanded for this bad habit already and would be reminded to
behave. ''We shall all try harder with Megawati,'' he
looning requires a balance of spontaneity and self-restraint. So
restrained am I that there is one man who has long been in need of a
jolly good looning which he has not yet received. He is a radio
announcer, let's call him John Highfield, on an ABC current-affairs
show, we'll call The World Today. His offence is the very
opposite of those mentioned above, in that he arbitrarily gives
foreign names any old combination of bizarre cadence and intonation
just to make them sound exotic.
So President Wahid was habitually given a large
dose of "h'' with his "W'', as if Indonesia lies somewhere near
Panama. (Anyone with an interest in our region knows, of course,
that if anything our northern neighbours give "w'' a softer emphasis
than we do, adding perhaps a touch of "v''.)
And ''al-Qaeda'' gets some
very weird treatment that for all I know may actually be correct. (I
doubt it, though.)
These are just two examples of many, Mr Highfield.
You know what I'm talking about. You must do it right or not at all,
or the mother of all loonings will be visited upon you.
Peter Brent is the
editor of mumble.com.au.
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