This week’s transfer of power in Washington DC had me remembering a former colleague who would have been delighted at the arrival of a new US President in the White House. Not because they were (like many) tired by the antics of Donald Trump, but because his name was one they had great trouble saying in news bulletins. Whenever they would say Donald Trump, it sounded like Donald Strump. Eventually I had to ask them to say US President or Mister Trump instead. So noticeable was the Strump pronunciation – that it became a regular feature on one of the station’s shows. Everyone could hear it, except that newsreader. While funny – it is indeed a great anecdote – it was also rather an unfortunate tick for a newsreader who would probably have to say the name of the US President at least two or three times a week.
Not being able to say Donald Trump is clearly rather unusual, but almost all newsreaders or presenters have words that they can’t quite get right. My list is long and thankfully many of them never appear in news. Saying the word ‘compartmentalise’ always has me in trouble and I once got stuck on ‘gynaecologist’ in a bulletin with hilarious effect. I stuttered over it, then let out a frustrated and very audible sigh before saying it properly. My colleague in the studio was on the floor laughing by the time I had finished the bulletin. I can assure you I did not quite see the funny side as easily!
What is surprising are some of the simpler words I have trouble with. Rural is a horrible word to say on radio and I always replace it with country or countryside to avoid it. Another for me is ‘railway’, which remarkably comes out as ‘Rall-way’ when I say it. It’s led me to use ‘train station’ instead on occasions but we all know it’s not a train station, it’s a railway station. What makes it even more remarkable is that I do like trains – and spent years collecting numbers on Reading station. You would have thought I could have pronounced my hobby!
Being aware of mispronunciations helps of course. With Donald Strump, no matter how many times we played it to them, they just couldn’t hear what we were hearing. That reminds me of another hilarious occasion working with a journalist, when they were reporting on the repatriation of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The nearby town was Carterton, but in the report they had constantly referenced ‘Carderton’. We sat with the journalist for 20 minutes saying ‘It is a T not a D’ and then they’d say the same thing – ‘Carderton’. It was like a Two Ronnies sketch. They could not hear the mistake. But on such a serious story it was vitally important to get right and eventually they did. Eventually.
My gift to you after reading this is to mention a few more words often said incorrectly but by people more often than you’d imagine. On radio and TV ‘until’ is regularly said as ‘antil’ and randomly memorabilia seems to attain some extra letters when most people say it as ‘mem-roe-bee-lee-er’ (it is mem-roe-billier). Now I have flagged them you will notice them as much as I do. Just don’t get me started on the Brexit v Bregsit debate!
I am sure there are more examples and you can put them in the comments below!