Words: Helpful or Hurtful?

Published 7:53 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Not so long ago, lots of folks–the ones still writing and reading longhand–gave little thought to what the future might hold for the English language. Many were more worried about dialects that will disappear when death claims the last handful of aging tribal users.

With social media and a culture given to haste 24/7, both verbal and written communications are being reduced to abbreviations and symbols. Forward-thinking people may legitimately wonder if the English language is on its way out.

Are we spiraling toward full circle, communicating one day–unbelievable as it may seem–in the manner of cavemen and cavewomen? This won’t cause many of us to brush up on symbolic meanings, but soon it may be helpful to know the common meanings of grunts, facial expressions or gestures. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I find it amusing to read or hear of “misadventures” of prominent folks. They, too, are guilty of misusing the King’s English. Occasionally, their mistakes are barely worth noting; at times, though, they’re king-size “goofs.”

At this point, I freely admit to committing more than my share of blunders at microphones, at lecterns and in print. For some mistakes, I’m still kidded to this very day. Ending a radio sports show on New Year’s Eve during college years, I wished one and all a “Happy Newbury.”

My weekly “bully pulpit” these days permits me to share smiles at others’ expense whenever possible. Let us proceed.

Fox News personalities are tagged twice. First, veteran Megyn Kelly pronounced “primer” incorrectly. She wasn’t speaking of preparation for painting, but referring to a simple fact. Often someone refers to “Ned in the primer.” In this case, it is pronounced “primmer.” Megyn failed to add the extra “m” that would have made proper pronunciation more likely.

A well-known Fox TV guest intended to mention–I am sure–the “annals” of world history. Too bad he left an “n” out, thus markedly changing the word’s meaning.

On a well-known Dallas TV station, a noon news broadcaster– instead of saying “Ky” (as in Sigma Chi) mispronounced it “Chi,” as in short for Chicago. The boss probably straightened him out that afternoon, explaining that lots of Greek fraternities and sororities have “Chi” in their names. And they’re always pronounced “Ky”

Where I grew up in Brown County, one radio station was owned by colorful twins, Eddye and Jimmy Farren, country music entertainers popular at gigs throughout the area.

Personable and talented, they’d quickly admit they could read lyrics far more easily than copy during newscasts. On one occasion, one of them said, “It’s been raining intermittently off-and-on all day.”

Old-timers out west still joke about a DJ who showed up at work after a night of heavy-duty imbibing, having reached, as some described, “a state of amiable incandescence.” His first words as he began the broadcast day went thusly: “You are listening to KSNY in Snyder, TX. No other station can make that statement.”

Southerners are credited for some of the most colorful expressions.

Some of the best were born before Confederate flags flew above courthouse lawns. One guy, admiring his friend’s spanking new cowboy boots, exclaimed, “You done flung a cravin’ on me.”…A dad, correcting his youngster, commented, “You can get glad in the same britches you got mad in.”…One philosopher advised, “Let the slick end slide and the rough end drag.”…Another guy, theoretically to offer comfort, said, “We’ll have a moment of silence, but for you, it’ll be a short one.”…My old granddaddy repeatedly “encouraged” me with, “You’re too smart for one boy, but not nearly smart enough for two.”…Finally, “We’re gonna treat the IRS so many different ways, they’re bound to like some of ‘em.”

In closing, here’s a warning from the archives about arguments being a waste of time. “It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing,” the expression goes. “It wears you out, and it annoys the pig.”


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.