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More ear-itating word abuse
Although Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star has faded, the erstwhile weight lifter-actor-governor hasn’t quite left the building. Recently, a phonics teacher e-mailed her exasperation with broadcasters who mispronounce the first syllable in “Schwarzenegger,” saying “swartz” instead of “shwartz.” “There IS a difference!” she said. “It’s gotten to the point that it’s like nails on a chalkboard when I hear it.”
As for me, I’ve heard it “swartz,” “shwartz,” “shvartz,” and even “shvozz.” I’ve heard it three, four, and five syllables. The man’s name is a minefield—I wonder if anyone except him says it right. This may be the rare occasion when I have some compassion for announcers…
Or maybe not. Shouldn’t you broadcasters make it your business to know how to pronounce a name—I mean, isn’t that your job? What else do we ask you to do besides saying the words right? OK, “Schwarzenegger” is one thing, but how about a common American name of six letters: To most people, former Vice President Dick Cheney is “CHAY-nee.” But in the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Cheney’s wife announced that the proper pronunciation of the family name was “CHEE-nee.” No one paid attention. Now, all these years later, the only broadcaster who’s careful to say “CHEE-nee” is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
No one butchers names like sportscasters: Back in the 1960s, the Chicago White Sox baseball team acquired a pitcher named Johnny Buzhardt. Then a strange thing happened: Up till then, his name had always been pronounced “BUZZ-hart,” but when the Sox got him, their great announcer Bob Elson started calling him “Buh-ZARD.” The pitcher’s wife only added to the confusion when in an on-air interview she quipped, “I’m Mrs. Buh-ZARD, wife of Johnny BUZZ-hart.”
Let’s go to some more misbegotten ear-torturers:
Short-lived This is not the lived of “She lived well.” The i is long, as it is in “live entertainment.”
Integral Why do so many people say “in-tra-gul” despite the spelling? It’s “in-ta-grul.”
February See that r after the b? You do? Apparently we’re in the minority. Every year in late winter, I wince to turn on the radio or TV and hear “Feb-yoo-ary” (or “Febber-ary”). Is “Feb-roo-ary” really so hard?
Controversial Four syllables, not five. Say “con-tra-VER-shul,” not “con-tra-ver-see-ul.”
Et cetera (etc.) Pronounced “ick-settera” by high-paid communicators who mysteriously think et is pronounced “ick.”
Dour The correct pronunciation is “doo-er.”
Schism Two things about this word: you rarely hear it, and when you do, it’s wrong: don’t say “skizzum,” say “sizzum.”
Heinous, grievous, mischievous First, please note there’s no i before the o in these words. Why, then, have I heard seasoned professionals say “hee-nee-us”? It’s “hay-nus.” Similarly, “grievous” is a two-syllable word: “GREE-vus.” The most tortured is the third one, which so many mindlessly pronounce “mis-CHEE-vee-us.” Make that “MIS-cha-vus.”
READERS ON THE CASE!
We thank everyone for the spirited response to last week’s readers’ challenge for an alternative to “The man went missing two days ago.” Our favorites: “The man has been missing for two days” and “The man was last seen two days ago.”
Still, we can’t escape the feeling that we’ll be revisiting the gone missing question…
This grammar tip was contributed by veteran copy editor and word nerd Tom Stern.
Due to the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's "Grammar Blog."
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