It seems particularly prevalent in post 9-11 USA, for all sorts of responsible members of the media to think it’s cute to stumble over difficult to pronounce foreign names. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is the latest target of seemingly random mispronunciations, often made with a smile and a chuckle. It is, in my opinion a terrible example of our countries tolerance of plain old ignorance.
Hence, I give big kudos to Whoopi Goldberg, who correctly pronounced the President’s name a few days ago on The View. When her co-hosts chuckled about it, she said that she remembered how to say his name by saying “I’m a dinner jacket”. I was impressed that rather than throw up her hands and say “he’s not a friend of America and therefore his name isn’t worth pronouncing correctly” she found a mental trick to help her say his name the way it’s supposed to be said.
There is an increasingly long list of reasons why it is getting harder to take the United States seriously as a role model superpower, but somewhere in that list is our almost arrogant embrace of total ignorance. Laughing at the way someone’s name is pronounced is on a par with kindergarten potty humor. Time we rose above it in our public discourse.