Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Read my lisp

There is no job interview that exists in the moment. Despite the fact that no employer is able to offer any more than a one year contract they insist that you tell them in minute detail exactly where you expect to be and what you will be doing five or ten years from now. Since CVs are mostly works of fiction anyway, why not go the whole sonic hedgehog and simply make them futuristic. All CVs should be set five or ten years in the future. At least then employers would be able to gauge if you have all the qualities they always claim to be seeking - creativity, ambition, not a time-waster (how could you be if you are able to account for time you haven’t even had yet?)

One job, however, still seems to be for life – TV presenter. Year in, year out, the same faces appear with ever-evolving eye furniture and hair styling. It’s a bit unfortunate then that the opportunity for career development has been entirely missed in their case. There is not one TV presenter in Britain who can successfully pronounce the word ‘sixth’. Instead it comes out sounding like those bad guys in Star Wars. This is a shame because the core business of a TV presenter is to pronounce. It would appear to be the only key skill needed to carry out the job effectively.

When the BBC interviews fifteen year-olds for future news presenter positions (Moira Stewart and Huw Edwards are expected to go on for another thirty-five years each), they might think about asking them if their ambitions include being able to pronounce the word ‘sixth’. The ruthlessly goal-orientated ones may even wish to set themselves a personal target of successfully announcing ‘today is my sixteenth birthday’ when they turn sixteen. This is nowhere near as difficult as ‘sixth’ but it would give a good indication of their future prospects.

Over a fifty year career and with intensive speech therapy, it may be possible for the most gifted of TV presenters to pronounce ‘sixth’. They could begin with an exercise to break up the syllables, the kind you have when you’re young to stop you saying espghetti instead of spaghetti. This may involve repeating a series of words that combine the same sounds but let you have a bit of a breather in between. Six theatres, six thongs, six Theremins, six therapists (not to be confused with sex therapists).

When Jonathan Ross first barged onto our screens around twenty-five sibilant years ago, everyone laughed at his inability to pronounce ‘r’. It was very quirky, very Channel 4. Now Ross sounds positively urbane with his crisp quips. Try saying that out loud five times Lowri Turner – or even once for that matter.

Recently I heard a news presenter give up on the word Baccalaureate. He got as far as the ‘bacca’ bit and just dissolved into a pathetic ‘lubba, lubba, lubba’ – and without apologising. Admittedly it’s not quite as easy as saying ‘A’ Levels or even GCSEs but it is doable. Everyone in France can say it – although they can’t say ‘th’ can they? It’s a bit too much interaction for me to have to pick up what a news reader is trying to communicate from the context. In fact, why don’t we go back to calling them news readers, with the emphasis on the reader bit? Calling them presenters just makes them sound like all they’ve done is paid for the production.

A sports presenter the other day couldn’t say Agassi. Who hasn’t heard of Andre Agassi? She said AR-GARSI, with the stress on the second syllable. I’d never heard anybody mispronounce Agassi. There are newborn babies that can say Agassi correctly. Perhaps she was thinking about where she is going to be in five or ten years time when Agassi will have retired (finally, hopefully).

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