This week’s column coming to you from the beautiful north Okanagan, where I was utterly surprised to discover that some of the radio announcers I heard don’t know how to pronounce the name of their region. Just as I have criticized broadcasters who don’t know that the city across the Fraser is not New Westminister (I talked about that a few weeks ago) I feel that if you are employed as a broadcaster, you have a professional responsibility to pronounce the community names in your own region.
I was astonished at the number of people who think the biggest lake in the north Okanagan is pronounced Shoe-shwap. This is a simple one folks – it’s even spelled the way it should be pronounced: Shuswap, like an exchange of footwear? Shoe-swap? Shame you who are apparently unaware that you haven’t got it right.
And while we’re on the ‘get it right’ bus, there’s another word that is mispronounced more often than not. It’s the word for the stuff they put on your roads: Asphalt. How do you get Ash-fault out of this? The word is ass-fault. There’s a ‘p’ between the s and h in the word.
Now back to announcers etcetera (which by the way is not ek-cetera). There is a great sports announcer I’ll not name, who does so much right I can’t be too harsh with him, still he cannot say “accessories.” He pronounces the word as a-ssessories – leaves out the ak sound at the front end. I think the problem here is speed. People, who speak too quickly, don’t give their vocal apparatus enough time to produce the sounds that are required for clear communication and wonder why people keep asking them to repeat what they said.
Similarly there is a commercial where the owner has forgotten there’s an ‘s’ early on in the word ‘business.’ What we hear is binn-ess. And there are other abbreviated words: artic instead of arctic, problee instead of probably (prob-ab-lee).
As a vocal coach, I often remind people that what we hear when someone speaks, unconsciously generates a picture or perception of how well educated the person is, how mature they are, whether they are rash and impulsive or careful and thoughtful. It can also impact the perception of how trustworthy they may be.
If you listen to children, they often have a lot of energy and can’t wait to unload all they know on you in the shortest period of time possible. Teens and people even into their early adulthood, may not have had the opportunity of finding out this secret and blithely demonstrate their immaturity by the way they communicate (specifically the speed of speech and the vocabulary or accuracy of the vocabulary they use).
- If you slow your speech (and I’m not talking about molasses slow) your vocal apparatus can create the whole word or phrase and deliver it clearly and distinctly, thus creating an impression that you are educated. Many learn how to present out of necessity, in order to defend a thesis, make speeches or present ideas in a clear and concise manner, perhaps with a grade, a degree or a job opportunity hanging in the balance.
- Slowing your speech allows your listener to understand what you have said. It indicates that you are concerned that your communication is received and understood – rather than a message from someone who is ill prepared or insecure, more concerned with getting off the stage as soon as possible to hide. It conveys that you are self-assured and considerate.
- Slowing your speech conveys that you are a precise or organized thinker. It conveys maturity. It also helps you communicate more effectively if you have an accent.
Perceptions are quite amazing! One day when I was in Smithers, I experienced one of my listener’s perceptions of me (I was the morning radio show host on the CBC in northern BC). Looking surprised, she informed me that she imagined me much taller (I’m five foot eight inches tall). Amazing what a 10 thousand watt radio station, and careful presentation will do for your short-comings.
Here’s looking (up) at you kid!