Media Monitor: Lee’s mysterious hyphen, (h)executed exams and Thompson’s new Herah

In a thought-provoking but amusing piece you can find on the Internet, Christopher Howse complains about the pronunciation ‘haitch for aitch’. 

“There must be a confused idea that since the letter h- is aspirated, its name should be too,” he continues. “It’s a kind of genteelism, like saying ‘Between you and I’.

“If people bright enough to get a job on the wireless stopped saying ‘haitch’,” he concludes, “I’d shout at it less frequently.”

Photo: Jamaica sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Women’s 100m Final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on 31 July 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
(Copyright Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Some Jamaicans, one hears, have aitch problems; and because there’s something that goes on with their vowels in particular as well, they call a donkey a ‘hoss’ and a horse an ‘ass.’ 

I thought of that on Saturday morning immediately after Jamaica swept the board in the Olympic Women’s 100m final. I compared the new sprint queen’s spontaneous display of unbridled joy to the agonised, incredulous look on the face of the ex-championne.

There’s always a high Pryce to pay, I thought, when it’s the start of a new Thompson Herah. 

And I laughed heartily at my own joke.

A few nights earlier, however, I hadn’t been amused while watching the TV6 7pm news. The presenter, Anselm Gibbs, was reporting on a situation in Tobago and at the centre of things was Minority Councillor in the Tobago House of Assembly, Faith B Ysrael.

Photo: Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Councillor Faith B Ysrael.

I was astounded to hear him repeatedly refer to her as ‘Dr B Ysrael’. Does anyone call Brian Charles Lara ‘C.Lara’? Or Prime Minister Keith Christopher Rowley ‘Dr C.Rowley’?

So to Google I went. The good lady. I discovered, used to be called Faith Brebnor and had changed her surname to B Ysrael, presumably retaining the B from her natal name.

Good for Gibbs.

But I can’t help but wonder why i95.5FM’s Tony Lee and Don Lee haven’t yet likewise done their research and discovered the truth about Michelle-Lee Ahye. 

Google left no doubt. There it was. In my face. Michelle-Lee. An unmistakeable hyphen before the Lee, none after it. 

But I don’t suppose that will make one jot of difference to the two Lees, who continue to style the 2020 Olympics 100m semi-finalist ‘Lee-Ahye’. 

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye gestures from the sidelines during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
(Copyright Sean Morrison/Wired868)

TV6, i95.5’s sister channel, clearly is no more careful about accuracy than the radio station. Early in the Olympics, before Felice Aisha Chow contrived to ‘finish first in her final’—19th overall but details are such a drag!—the ticker tape informed us that the 44-year-old rower had managed to pull her way ‘through to the quarter-finals in the Women’s Single Skills’. 

And you had to hear it to believe what a mess could be made of ‘repechage’.

But I didn’t quite shout at the television on the weekend when CNC3’s Jesse Ramdeo presented the 7pm news. He does have this very annoying habit of contorting his face into the most distracting expressions, as if he is merely miming. 

Only, he isn’t!

“The CAPE, CSEC and SEA exams,” he reported audibly, “were all executed without incident.” 

Hmmmmmm. Exams executed? By firing squad à la Grenada 1983? Or by assassins à la Haiti 2021? Why was that not the crime news lead? 

Image: The lighter sight of language.

And in recent times, Ramdeo as well has probably been listening closely to the prime minister in particular, for whom, some say, people clearly don’t count.

Less people,” we were informed, “are seeking to take the vaccine.”

I didn’t shout at the television on the weekend either when the cricket moved to the National Stadium in Providence. But there were moments, I confess, when I was tempted to. 

In place of former West Indies quick Curtly Ambrose of Antigua, the TV commentary team welcomed Colin Croft, another former West Indies pacer native to Guyana.

Implicitly criticising WI captain Kieron Pollard’s batting order in the Second T20I which the regional side lost by 7 runs, he noted that the batting line-up contains ‘four left-handers who all came in after each other’. 

I hope my friend misheard when he reported that Stacy-Ann King in particular had spoken of an ‘unjust’ shot. It’s an understandable error if you’re using a thesaurus in particular.

Photo: West Indies batsman Evin Lewis on the go against Australia in the Fifth T20I.
(via CWI)

But if you’re using a dictionary as well

I record these errors here but I really have the greatest sympathy for these former players. They are thrown in the deep end.

And left to flounder.

Having mentioned Haiti above reminds me to point out to i95.5’s Nicole Romany in particular that diacritical marks as well cannot simply be disregarded. The two dots above the i in the surname of Jovenel Moïse, the now late president of Haiti, are not a typo; they break up the diphthong, making the ex-president’s name MO-EESE, not MOYCE.

And, in an item wrongly headlined as being about an Emancipation Committee leader who had ‘questioned the absence of a female Emancipation monument’, Onika James, Romany’s station-mate, made a hash of Aiyegoro Ome’s name. 

Photo: Late Haiti president Jovenel Moïse listens during an interview in Port-Au-Prince on Monday 29 January 2018.
Moïse was assassinated in a raid on his home by a group of unidentified people in the capital Port-Au-Prince, according to the nation’s interim prime minister Claude Joseph.. Photographer: Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg

In the article referred to at the beginning, Howse reveals that his ‘favourite two words almost always mispronounced are pejorative and flaccid’. 

“Yet I wouldn’t dream of correcting anyone who innocently got them wrong. (…) It would be like sneering at their clothes.” 

“When it comes to pronunciation,” he ends with a warning, “we all live in glass houses.”

Not another stone.

Editor’s Note: According to the author, the dictionary gives four meanings for the verb ‘to execute’:

(1) To put into effect (2) To produce or perform (3) To carry out a sentence of death (4) To kill as a political act.

For an exam, he recommends ‘to administer.’ And he wonders whether readers can recommend a reputable dictionary that disagrees with him.

Having had an opportunity to watch a replay of the relevant game, the author is now completely satisfied that what Ian Bishop said was this: ‘Pakistan are stringing good overs together’. The misrepresentation is regretted and apologies are extended to Mr Bishop. The excerpt has been removed.
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  1. The word ‘execute’ was used correctly in the context mentioned. Just because we are unaware of the various nuances of a word, or have come to associate it with only one thing (‘to kill’, for example), does not make it wrong when we see/hear it being used in another sense/context. It means that we need to acquaint ourselves with the various meanings of the word, especially before we start to lament its use.

    • Feel entirely free to ignore the Editor’s Note. That makes perfect sense. Let not the dictionary dictate meaning to us.

      I, starchy old pedantic fart that I am, sincerely apologise for being completely opposed to such linguistic anarchy, hailed, I have no doubt, as welcome creativity.

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