Monday, June 22, 2009


The Spoken Word...
I have to admit that I have a very strange hobby. I keep a record of language errors committed by the people responsible for ‘news’ radio and television!

My list was begun more than thirty years ago in Thompson, North Manitoba, on the day I made a mental note of the fact that a newsreader had pronounced ‘nuclear’ as ‘nucular’. I was speechless! … To a former journalist (especially one who was raised in a South Africa, where, to get a job as a broadcaster in the early days, one had to sound like the BBC announcers, to whom perfect grammar and impeccable pronunciation were paramount) this was a shock! NB. There would come a time when I would frequently be required to speak on radio and television but, with a South African accent like mine, I doubt if I would ever have been regarded as a suitable candidate for permanent employment by the South African SABC! – (Ah! Those were the days!!) As a result I regard media-folk, to this day, as ‘the people who have to set the standard’, and - sadly - BBC English is no longer impeccable, either!

Not long after moving to Calgary in 1978, I began to make written notes. This came about after I had heard - during a TV news report about a luncheon in the States, at Camp David - that, ‘after the pink Canadian salmon, Jimmy Carter spoke.' Ever since then I have wondered what the pink Canadian salmon might actually have said! And since then, every transgression has promptly been added to the list; instantly jotted down on the nearest, convenient scrap of paper, and dropped into a now overflowing carton - labelled the "Blunder Box" and kept specifically for that purpose. (The moment I heard David of the CTV talk about ‘a phenomena', another memo made it straight into ‘the box’!) … When a leading politician incorrectly used the expression ‘a criteria’, instead of a ‘criterion’, his error was recorded; however, still heading that part of the list, is the name of the expert on a certain subject, who goes as far as to say ‘criterias’!

My list shows that that this may indeed be the case, and people have tried to persuade me to publish an article on the subject, but I hesitate. While, by sharing my list, I might provide broadcasters with food for thought, and perhaps induce newsreaders to be more particular about their delivery, I confess that I have misgivings about the indiscriminate release of these notes. My family may groan aloud at my constant, involuntary protests and outcries of disgust as we watch the telly or listen to the radio, but I do not want to intimidate my friends or, even worse, have them minding their p’s and q’s and weighing their words before they speak.

As I see it, if my neighbours had rotten voices but liked to sing, I’d say, “Good luck to them," and it would not bother me, but when people are professionals, invited into our homes, and expected to be masters of the craft for which they are being paid, that’s a different matter altogether. Especially as, on news channels, the same errors are repeated, over and over again …

We all know someone who professes to suffer from ‘atharitis’, but it’s particularly infuriating when a professional newsreader talks about a 'parapalegic' or an 'athalete'. The correct pronunciation for someone who is an 'estate agent' is 'real-tor - not 'real-a-tor!'

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? Who is to blame — the script writer, the editor or the reader? I can’t believe that anyone holding a senior position would be responsible, considering that even the spell checker on my computer disallows such errors. I can only conclude that some newsreaders don’t read what has been written, carefully enough! Hence the pronunciation of Etc.(et cetera) as Excetera or Ecetera instead of etcetera! - (CTV ‘late news’ recently revealed a new phenomenon, as one newsreader took to saying‘exspcially’.)

Many of the politicians I have listened to lately, have erred in some respect. Like them, members of the media, are also guilty of another very common fault … that of inserting an ‘i’ into mischievous, and grievous. There are no such words as the ‘mischeevious’, or grieveeous’ regularly employed by a prominent member of the cabinet. Just as annoying to me is the omission of an ‘i’. (The word is poinsettia not poinsetta!)

If it hangs on a wall it’s a picture – not a pitcher! Pitcher and picture. … The ‘c’ makes all the difference. Unless the rest of the sentence indicates the meaning, it is often difficult to decide whether the broadcaster is referring to a jug or an image of something. (Many newsreaders are guilty of this.)

While I writhe at some of the syntax employed, it can occasionally be as tragic as it incorrect. For example, in a note made upon hearing on News 1130AM, earlier this year, about the man who “took one of his daughter’s lives,” I scribbled cynically, in haste, “Can she, like a cat, be blessed to have more than one?” Then instantly repenting and becoming solemn at the realization, I have added: “Oh dear! What he really means to say is “the life of one of his daughters!”

Nouns - Singular and plural: Early on I would have suggested that perhaps the education system was entirely to blame for not teaching students the difference between phenomenon and phenomena, but, in time, I have begun to believe that the widespread and common misuse of such words is due entirely to repeated subjection of viewers and listeners to the incorrect word on radio and television. (I see that On Feb 19, 2008, I noted - with approval - that a newsreader had actually used the correct form!)

Sports commentators (even the charming female ones) are the main offenders when it comes to confusing vertebra and vertebrae. The moment I heard this, one evening in February this year, I telephoned my favourite station to ask (very courteously and without rancour) that it be passed on to the sports reporter that ‘vertebrae’ is plural’, and it is incorrect to say: ‘a vertebrae’. The person who responded, being of the same mind, agreed. (You may be sure that I added Monday morning’s repeat of the error to my list, as I had done with CTV’s late night blunder on the previous night!)

On the same channel, talking about the outcome of a lottery affecting a number of winners, to have said ‘between’ themselves was wrong. That should, instead, have been ‘among’. ‘Between’ is used when there are only two in a particular equation .

My notes are often divided into categories such as:
(a) Loan is a noun. The verb is lend. Past tense is lent. Incorrect to say: ‘He loaned her’, instead of ‘he lent her’. Banks lend - they do not loan - but can lend or grant.
(b) Verbs - tense and numberI have become inured to the use of 'lay' instead of lie, as in ‘he went to lay down’, but detest ‘lied’and 'laid' as the past tense in this instance. I also take issue with what I term ‘unbalanced’ sentences” such as, “The jury stands (singular) by what they (plural) say. ”

Ignorance regarding participles … (ALL STATIONS)
Dec 24 CBC 690 - my life had took …should be ‘had taken’.
“He sung a song…” Incorrect. Many don’t seem to know that the past tense of sing is sang. (ALL STATIONS)
He was bit by a dog should be was bitten. On Monday, Feb. 19,2008 a child was ‘bit’ by a snake.
One of the top newsmen on CTV, referring to an incident on Parliament Hill, informed Mike Duffy that week that bells had already RANG! (Should have been Rung.)

Unnecessary use of adverbs.
Transfat discussion - ‘the food tastes 'differently'. Different would do.
I feel badly. (Bad would do, in this case.)

Personification … the car fled the scene. Very irritating. (CTV.BC late news)

Tautology: ‘Very’ unique is both unnecessary and ridiculous. Unique means ‘the only one’ and nothing can be ‘very one’. (ALL STATIONS)
Return back and reverse back (ALL STATIONS) is as bad as irregardless!

Friday, December 5, 2008
but good grief, Sarah!
Its not NU-CU-LAR! It's NUC-LE-AR! And there's no need for you to try and emulate President Bush.

Top marks to Canadian Prime Minister Harper for saying, 'It's different from and not 'different than'! He gets my vote even just for that!

Repetition of prepositions.
Today I heard a female Senator say, in a TV interview, "there are more women now from which to choose from..."

Word order or choice of word … FOR EXAMPLE: ‘Centres’ around does not make sense, as the centre of anything is in the middle. Should be centres on, or even focuses on. Majority (correct when people or things have been counted, as in ‘Majority of votes’) is too often used when ‘most’ would do. FOR EXAMPLE: ‘The majority of the weather is an example of this annoying habit.’ (CTV.BC WEATHER - Late night Vancouver news)

Confusion - especially when the singular form of a word differs in meaning from the plural.
Here's an example:
A premise is a proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.

When referring to a building or part of a building, the correct word would be Premises.

A few miscellaneous'BEAUTS' chosen at random:

CTV News final: Judy Dench launched a bottle of champagne to christen the boat.
Sept 7: the talks hope to be finalized
CTV.BC ... have took all the tests.
News 1130AM March 3. (Seeking the cause of an accident) … they are looking into a cyclist.
Nov 4, 2007 … most unlikeliest.
News 1130am: January 6, 2008. About an injured, unhappy, and temporally sidelined NHL player: "Now he is cooling his heels with his knee!"

1 comment:

Nancy said...

About feeling badly. You are right about that. What really gets to me is that the "ly" is so often omitted where it is really nececessary. eg. She did wonderful.