What’s the Good Word?

A couple of months ago, I noticed, it was “FORE-closure,” accent on the first syllable.  For a couple of days, every newscaster I heard seemed to be saying it that way.

Then I noticed that print media were doing a new hack job on “lie” and “lay.” They used to use “lay” to mean both “place” and “recline.”  Now they seem to be using “lie” in both transitive and intransitive forms—“lie that cushion down here, okay?”

Today I heard a BBC newsreader talk about unemployment in “Ko-KO-mo,” accent on the second syllable.  His colleague on the ground in Indiana went out of her way to say “KO-ko-mo” several times in her report, and by the end of the piece, the guy back at the home office was saying it too, and apologizing for having gotten it wrong before.  Nice to know some people can actually learn on the go.

It all reminded me of a story I heard from a local newscaster when I took my students on a tour of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.  Back in 1994, when he was doing the late news, somebody handed him a printout that had just come through, about the death of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana.  The reporter, who was due to go on the air in 30 seconds, knew there was no way he was going to get the pronunciation right on such short notice. So instead, he claims, he said “The President of Rwanda has just been killed in a plane crash. His name is being withheld pending notification of his next of kin.”

Jane Grey

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