Pet Peeve

Two bits of housekeeping before Pet Peeve time.

First: Thoughts and prayers for the people of Puerto Rico. Two devastating disasters in five years – the mind reels.

Second: It’s generally good manners to try to pronounce names and places relatively close to their linguistic originals. It’s why “Beethoven” and “Bach” are proncounced “BAY-to-ven” and “BAKH”, rather than BEE-Thoh-vun” and “BATCH”.

But now that there’s a big story in a Hispanic country, it’s time for National Public Radio reporters to indulge their most annoying affectation.

During standard NPR newscasts, we get a steady diet of reporters and anchors with otherwise traditional “Public Radio accents” – mild-mannered, neutral and and unobtrusive in a way that still bespeaks upper-middle-class roots, the sound of an Oberlin College graduate who interned in DC – abruptly switching out of their public radio lack-of-brogue to wrap their tongues around words like “PWAIR-toh RRRREEEE-koh”, rolling the “R” like Ricardo Montalban in his prime, dare I say *appropriating* a Puerto Rican via “West Side Story” accent [1]…

…and then back to the NPR accent.

And for some reason, it’s ONLY Latino words (or the occasional South Asian one like “POCK-ee-stawn”) that prompts this affectation.

You never hear:

  • OAH-zhlo NOR-guh
  • STOK-holm SVAIR-ee-guh
  • Bair-LEEN, BOON-des-re-poo-bleek DOYCH-land
  • MOSK-vah ROSS-ee-ya
  • TOH-kio NEE-hon
  • Var-SHAH-vah Po-LOH-nya”
  • Or, these days, most of all, “KHYIV, Ooo-KHRAI-nah”.

Pick one affectation and stick with it, I say.

SNL did in fact nail it, back when SNL was still capable of nailing, well, anything:

[1] One exception to the peeve – the reporters who are actually Puerto Rican or at least Latino, who manage to pull off the “NPR Accent” until it comes time to pronounce something Hispanic. No reason for them to dumb down their own language.

23 thoughts on “Pet Peeve

  1. Just a guess — the Oberlin grads got through Spanish 250 with a solid B+ and never miss an opportunity to demonstrate their mad skillz.

  2. Thoughts and prayers for the people of Puerto Rico. Two devastating disasters in five years – the mind reels.

    No doubt AOC’s A-Bwey-laaa was once again washed down the hillside in the mudslide.

  3. everyone said i was daft to build a castle in a swamp but i built it anyway it sank into the swamp

    or in this case, build on an island in a hurricane zone theres a reason roofs in snow country have steep pitch and why roofs in hurricane zone are palm fronds

    whats that definition of insanity no not living in a hurricane zone giving them money to rebuild in the hurricane zone cuz you just know we will do it again and again and

  4. It’s been a long while since I subjected myself to the droning of NPR hosts, but they were doing that over thirty years ago when I was in college. A news reader, doing a story about something in Germany, pronounced the name “Friedrich” Germanically with a softly rolled R: FLEED-likhhh, or something like that. It was jarring to hear it that way in the middle of American accented English, especially with a huge amount of caring emphasis placed on “Friedrich”. It was distracting, and made me lose focus on what the report was about.

  5. Pet Peeve:

    When someone or something I’ve (rightfully) raked over the coals comes through with something good.

    Case in point: “The Daily Wire”

    Ben Shapiro is a shameless grifter, and agent of controlled opposition…but he somehow managed to get Matt Walsh onboard.

    Start here; he is onto a really big story, that will have really big repercussions for groomers, and child mutilators.

  6. I was raised in a family where such intellectual bullying took place with frequency. I catch myself repeating the pattern, though I rationalize it but claiming to be a grumpy old man. Isn’t cultural appropriation something progs try to avoid. When the Russo-Ukrainian war fired up I was astonished to learn that Chicken Kee-Yev was in fact Chicken Keev. I’m sure NPR announcers were the first to get the memo.

  7. Why don’t they pronounce “Toronto” as “Toronto – eh.” That’s how Toronto natives pronounce it.

  8. Never hear keu-ben-Houn, Dan-mark either

    I was going to use that one, but speaking Norwegian, I realize I haven’t the foggiest idea how to pronounce things in Danish.

  9. AOC’s A-Bwey-laaa

    Whenever she goes full Jenny-From-The-Block on “Ob-WAY-la”, I just wanna reply “Is that your Grossmutter, or your Bestemor?”

  10. I was astonished to learn that Chicken Kee-Yev was in fact Chicken Keev

    I mean, it’s pretty intermediate-level Eastern European history that the Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabet has a letter “i”, and the Russian one doesn’t. The Soviets tried to extinguish the letter for generations – people literally died over the letter “i”.

    I’d suspect getting punctilious about:

    • KYIV versus Kee-YEV
    • Dnipro versus Dniepro
    • Kharkiv v. Kharkov

    …would have been more courageous and less virtue-signally forty years ago than today.

  11. Pair-ee
    We have perfectly good English words and pronouncements for these places and use them regularly in media. It’s only for non-white places that we apparently think the locals aren’t smart enough to know where we are talking about if we don’t pronounce it exactly the way they do.

  12. Agreed, Moose. Exactly what’s wrong with Peking and Bombay? I use these versions and people know what I’m talking about; isn’t that the purpose of communication?

  13. My Granddad always said “Nor Guh”. But then he had the audacity to pronounce Hauge “How ge”. I love spam phone calls. The permutations are quite amusing.

  14. The thought that occurs to me is that there’s a not very subtle difference between pronouncing things correctly, and pronouncing things sort of correctly with an exaggerated accent intended to “prove you’re in the know”, and which actually proves you’re not.

  15. PR is in the line of fire for tropical cyclones. Comes with the territory. I sympathize with the people, but…you all know the next one is out there and always will be.

  16. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 09.23.22 (Afternoon Edition) : The Other McCain

  17. Dnipro versus Dniepro

    Dni’epr versus Dniepro.

    There, fixed it for you.

    And of course T’O-ranna vs Tor-O-nt-OH

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