Sunday, May 10, 2009

If It's Pock-iss-tahn It Must Also Be Chi-caw-go

General David Petreus was on Fox News Sunday this morning. I listened but did not pay attention to whatever he was blathering. I know that Generals are no more soldiers than Bishops are holy men. When they attain that level of hierarchical prominence they have become politicians. As such they are not worth listening to.

I did notice, however, that Petreus was now pronouncing the name of Pakistan in the new Obama fashion --- Pock-iss-tahn. All my life Americans have been pronouncing it Pack -iss-tan. But lately -- in this era of hyper-multicultural sensitivity -- we have been called on to change our pronounciation of foreign names and places with maddening frequency.

These multiculturalist fashions are changing as quickly as fashions in cell phone design.

For centuries, Westerners had been referring to the capitol city of China as Pea-king (Peking.) Then one day, about a decade ago it suddenly became Bay-zhingg (Beijing.)

Until they had that big terrorist attack there, I was not aware that the Indian city of Bombay had been rechristened Mumbai, in Western parlance.

Are we now supposed to order a Mumbai gin martini (dry) with our Beijing duck?

Which brings me to Shi-caw-go.

That's the way real Chicagoans pronounce it. But just turn on any national news broadcast, and you'll hear the East Coast news reader referring to Shi-caaah-go's latest political scandal. Or Shi-caaah-go's lousy weather. Or Shi-caaa-go's whatever.

It's worse when an obviously non-native Chicagoan gets hired to news read on one of the local stations and uses the East Coast pronunciation. I even heard one of that breed refer to the major East-West thoroughfare as De-vinn, in the British manner, rather than the way that every Chicagoan has been pronouncing Devon Avenue for a century or more -- DEE-vaughan.

So I think if the Mumbains and Beijingists can demand cultural sensitivity to their native pronunciations, Chicagoans should demand and expect no less.

Now I've got to cut this short, because I have to travel down to Goa-theee Avenue in Lincoln Park.

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Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.