Media mishaps: Grammar grinch gripes again

I heard it again this morning: NASA pronounced “nassau.” NASA is not pronounced “nassau.” Nassau (NASS-aw) is a city, the capital of the Bahamas. NASA (NASS-uh) is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

And that was enough to pry loose this list I’ve compiled over the last six months or so, compliments of the news media:

  • V or VS is an abbreviation for VERSUS, not “verse.” Even sportscasters are now perpetuating this gross error. It’s VERSUS!
  • STEM is pronounced “stem,” not “steam.”
  • The word is INTERIM (3 syllables), not “interm” (2 syllables).
  • Read your script before you go on the air and make sure you know how to pronounce every single word in it. Pay special attention to the proper nouns. And for Pete’s sake, if you need glasses, get glasses!
  • OBSCURE is not pronounced “obs-kurr.”
  • It’s INFRASTRUCTURE, not “inFAstructure.” There’s an r in the second syllable.
  • The KUIPER BELT in space is pronounced “ky-per,” not “kee-per,” “cue-per,” or anything else. This is a perfect example of when a news reader needs to learn the correct pronunciation before going on the air.
  • It’s MASTECTOMY, not “masSECtomy.” Sadly, even many women who’ve had the surgery don’t pronounce it correctly. The most inexcusable example: Its appearance in a commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
  • Stop misusing the word VAGINA. The VAGINA is an internal organ. The external female genitals are called, collectively, the VULVA.
  • GULCH is not pronounced “gull-itch.”
  • HOWITZER (artillery) is not pronounced “horowitzer.” Again, read your script before you go on the air!
  • Like, ya know how some people preface every other sentence with “Like” or “Ya know” or “Uh”? There’s a local tv news reporter who prefaces every sentence with “Now.”
  • ERRING is not pronounced “earring.”
  • REMNANT is a two-syllable word. It’s not “rem-a-nant.”
  • Don’t advertise yourself as “Dr. Jane Doe, AuD.” It’s redundant. Use “Dr.” or “AuD” (Doctor of Audiology) but not both. Using both doesn’t make you look more highly qualified. Quite the contrary.
  • Oh, and can we please, please banish the phrase “HUNKER DOWN.” I understand it was popularized by Texan and good ol’ boy Lyndon B. Johnson. It actually means, or originally meant, to crouch or squat, something no one is going to do for the duration of a hurricane. (Unfortunately, it appears I’ve long since lost the battle on this one, as well as the figuratively/virtually battle.)
  • GYPSUM is not pronounced “gibson.”
  • Depending on where you live, you might pronounce MANUAL with either two or three syllables. For me it’s always been “man-yul.” (I’m from Oklahoma; that’s my excuse.) But MODULE is never three syllables, despite a local reporter pronouncing it “mod-yoo-ul.”
  • NEDERLAND, a town in Colorado, is not pronounced “Nee-der-land.” Even if, and especially if, you are a newcomer to the state, double-check the pronunciation of local names before you do a news broadcast.
  • CACHE is pronounced “cash,” not “ca-shay,” and is a stash of items. CACHET is a different word, pronounced “ca-shay,” and means, roughly, prestige.
  • Although I can’t find a strict grammar rule against them, “these ones” and “those ones” are redundant and make me wince whenever I hear them.
  • COORS is pronounced “coors,” not “currs” or “cores.” It says right there, coo, like the sound a dove makes.
  • Mmmm, S’MORES. It’s a contraction. One syllable, pronounced “smores,” not “shmores” or “some mores.”
  • One does not “TRIBUTE” a fallen soldier. Tribute is not a verb! You can “pay tribute to” a fallen soldier, but you cannot simply “tribute” that soldier.
  • The singular form of DICE is DIE. Even if it has 20 sides, it’s still just one DIE.
  • MACAROONS and MACARONS are completely different cookies. Too often I’ve seen/heard references to “macaroons” only to be shown a pile of macarons. I used to make a mean apricot/coconut macaroon, but I’ve never even tasted a macaron.
  • “Meatless meat.” Seriously? Vegan patty. Meatless patty. Vegan burger. Meat substitute. Whatever. But it’s not meat if there’s no meat in it!
  • “Adorbs” instead of ADORABLE. No. Just no. Ick! Ditto for “jelly” instead of JEALOUS. The younger generation(s?) may talk this way but it has no place on the air.
  • Cincinnati’s football team is the BENGALS, not the “Bangles.” The Bangles were a girl band in the ’80s.
  • It’s LAUNDROMAT, not “laundrymat.”
  • And Iet us not forget, it’s NUCLEAR not “nucular” and ASTERISK not “asteriks.”

In my defense I’d like to note that I’m almost 77 years old (probably a bit stuffy and old-fashioned) and was raised in Oklahoma, so my ear may not be attuned to certain regional differences. Still, news readers (and writers!) should be responsible and careful to get it right because, unfortunately, far too many people are learning from what they hear online, on radio, and on tv.



Categories: Culture, language

14 replies

  1. I think I’d get an A- on your test. I’ll admit to saying “hunkered down.” It just sounds less scary than sequestered or quarantined.

  2. One of the many reasons I stopped watching live TV is because of all the new meteorologists and reporters who keep mispronouncing Arkansas town and county names. I came from a broadcast background, and we used to keep a pronunciation dictionary close at hand, which contained the standardized pronunciations for notable people and places for broadcasters. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen anymore.

    Sure, Arkansas does weird things like pronounce Lafayette as Luh-FAY-ette and Nevada as Nuh-VAY-duh, but if you can’t be bothered to find out how something is pronounced before going on air, you’re not doing your job.

    • Same problem here in Colorado. I took three years of Spanish back in the day and it still doesn’t keep me on track with some of the names here. Natives pronounce Buena Vista as “Byoo-nah Vista” instead of “Bwayna Vista.” And a nearby street, Zuni, is pronounced “Zoon-eye.” Growing up in Oklahoma, it was always “Zoon-ee.” And I still say “Cahs-uh Bonita” even though a lot of natives say “Cass-uh Bonita”

    • Being a retired editor is a curse of sorts; maybe others would pass on things that catch my attention. On the other hand, maybe not.

      • If I hear one more time the substitution of “up/upped” in place of “raised”, “grown”, “increased” and many other appropriate words….aaarrrgh. Like nails own the blackboard
        At first we thought is was a nod to English language learners…now, with all the other odd usages we’re afraid since vocabulary is no longer taught/ casual street speech deemed acceptable everywhere (Kids used to be told that’s Ok to say with friends, but in public/work/school, please be correct if you want to get ahead in life) – precise speech no longer the norm that people’s vocabularies are diminished …and sad.

  3. I pretty much agree with all except “Manual”. I pronounce it with 3 syllables. To only use two just doesn’t sound right.

    • Same way 3 syllables doesn’t sound right to me. I think I only pronounce it that way because that’s what I always heard growing up and among the people I knew. I can see clearly that it should be 3 syllables, but it sounds weird to me that way. Old habits are hard to break.

  4. “These ones” drives me absolutely crazy. And also “realtor” being pronounced as “relator”.

"Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got." ~ Art Buchwald

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