Hey Burrzil [sic]… Should We Pertest [sic] This?

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: To be monolingual is not something I am particularly proud of. Worse yet, there have been a few occasions where I’ve not even done full justice to my own native tongue… e.g., mispronouncing / misspelling words. Mrs. H, my high school sophomore English teacher, once publicly humiliated me in the classroom… right in front of dozens of my peers. But… in retrospect… I am indebted to her for she had spared me far worse embarrassment later on… oh… say… during that all-important job interview where first impressions always matter.

The inescapable truths… [1] we learn to enunciate from the way words are spelled (and vice versa) and [2] we must remain dilligent to ensure our errors are the exception and not the rule.

Of course, such truths are not always self-evident to all. Let’s explore this further…

In my homeland, what little that’s left of trustworthy reportage is left in the capable, learned hands of National Public Radio (NPR) personnel. We, their levelheaded listeners, can find little fault with their relevant, informative, reality based, reliably sourced, fact checked news content. Would one not expect such qualities to go hand-in-hand with a firm grasp on something as elementary as grade school taught phonics? Not so.

While NPR’s on-air journalists / staff announcers all speak, otherwise, letter / picture perfect English, how is it even possible that they so persistently mispronounce nearly every last damned word prefixed with “PRE” and “PRO”… i.e., as if the first three letters are “PER”?

The most flagrant error I can cite was a reporter’s mispronunciation of the word protestor… his mutilating it into the non-word “pertestor”. Seeing how he had repeated this error several times within the same story, how could that possibly be some random slip of the tongue?

Such flubs also occur when news coverage focuses upon current events transpiring in Berzil… Burrzil… oh… wait a minute… they must be talking about South America’s Brazil.

True, those of us, who know better, can auto-correct. But what about some just-starting-out-in-life, intellectually curious student? What if this child starts to wonder where in the world Berzil / Burrzil is located? Based, solely, upon the mispronunciation, it would be difficult to locate that land in any of our atlases. And, that would probably be frustrating as hell. Oh, eventually… either independently or via a parent/teacher intervention… the kid would find out… but… would it not be more efficient to correct phonics flubs prior to On-Air / Internet transmission?

SIDEBAR: I totally stumped WordPress spellcheck with both spellings… i.e., Berzil and Burrzil. If AI cannot figure this out… hmm… maybe this problem is far bigger than we think?

We still need to dig a bit deeper into this name game issue, too.

In a sense… in our post 9/11 world… where there’s a veritable alphabet soup of new-to-us names of nations (and leaders, too), have we not all become just-starting-out-in-life, intellectually curious students? Which does beg the question…

Just how can any of us be certain both NPR and we are even pronouncing everything correctly when their reporters cannot even properly pronounce Brazil?

To help NPR air personnel avoid embarrassing themselves further, what management really needs to do is hire a team of overseers who could channel Mrs. H’s brand of educational tough love!

 

 

 

The Adventures of Harrison and Human (Chapter-1)

 

I could’ve sworn someone had just spoken to me in a near whisper…

“Pssst… hey human!”

Perhaps this was a mere figment of my imagination? Oh… say… my erroneously assigning human syntax and phonics to what was… in actuality… a mere, momentary wind gust rustling a nearby lilac thicket’s leaves? Well… I had no sooner summarily dismissed this as such a phenomenon than the unseen speaker spoke again… this time with added conviction and decibels…

“Hey! Over here!”

My ears now properly attuned, they advised a 180 spin. Pivoting on my heels… lo and behold… there he was! And most assuredly, this was no ordinary, up-at-the-crack-of-dawn passerby… no jogger or nature walker was he.

Indeed, amidst the stray sunbeam lit, verdant field of clover, sat an up on his haunches, uncharacteristically unskittish rabbit… sporting a dapper, multiple gradations of brown, furry coat and tails. Uh… correction… let’s make those “tails” one, fluffy, grayish-white cottontail.

Even though I could not immediately reconcile the contradictory aural / visual sensory input, at hand… there could be no denying his presence. But a talking rabbit? NO… I would not… could not… “go there!”

Was I actually starting to sense his amusement, too? I could not be certain. What was for fur sure? Being at a distinct psychological disadvantage.

Transfixed and momentarily speechless were we… he… casually chewing on the clover leaves within his twitching whiskered mouth… I… desperately ISO any signs of the human responsible for those uttered, two, brief sentences. But, with no such person in the vicinity, I began wondering if straitjackets are custom tailored or only a one size fits all / off the rack prospect.  Just when I thought my jaw could not drop any further… said he… omg… SAID HE?

“Yes… it really IS just you and me.”

Was his accompanying chortled chorus to mock or reassure me?

I could only hunker down with my mind’s “this cannot possibly be happening” utter disbelief. My mind? What mind?

There just had to be some logical explanation! At stake, was my very WordPress screen-name, CommonSenseTom… which I realized could soon be rendered nonsensical. It was then that… not unlike a TM mantra… I began recursively reminding myself…

“Rabbits cannot talk! Rabbits cannot talk! Rabbits cannot talk!”

“Oh yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!”

… Mr. Rabbit’s reply clearly establishing that I had either, actually, vocalized my thoughts or he was a mind-reader, too. Quick as a bunny he added in a big voice inconsistent to his small, short stature… and with a New England accent, to boot…

“So sorry to get your wind up. Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr. Human. Allow me to introduce myself. Dr. Harrison Hare D-I-X. But do call me Harry… that sounds far less stuffy.”

“D-I-X? DIX as in Roman numerals? As in Harrison the 509th?”

“Hey… don’t look so shocked. A rabbit’s prolific nature is a fact of life… not some credulity contorting Urban Legend!”

Still doubting my sanity, while nonchalantly, softly humming the Jefferson Airplane’s classic rock tune, White Rabbit, I made a full 360 scan of the vicinity… this time ISO some cleverly hidden TV cameras. I was now actually entertaining the notion that I was EITHER getting punk’d OR some new network reality show had hired a dude to throw his voice rabbit-ward. Sensing that awkward silences could easily render the recorded “footage” unfit for cable, streaming, the airwaves, etc… that I could easily blow any chances for my big break into TV land fame and fortune… I decided to play along…

“Hey, Harry, has anybody ever told you your voice sounds just like John F. Kennedy’s?”

“No… but then again… I don’t normally talk with all that many humans. And speaking of talking… to whom do I have the pleasure of meeting on this balmy, late spring morn?”

“The name is Thomas BlogDonovich… no Roman numerals needed… and btw… Tom will suffice. I guess I’m glad to meet you, too.”

“Still unsure I’m really talking to you, huh?”

“Sure am… in fact your chosen word… balmy… likely better describes my mental state… uh… than this morn’s weather. I mean… a talking rabbit?”

“Not just A rabbit, friend Tom… ALL rabbits can talk!”

“So this is really happening and I’m not really losing it?”

“Tom… I assure you… this IS really happening! You must believe me, OK?

“I’m trying. I’m trying. But why… pray tell… have you chosen this particular time to break the ice? After all, we’ve been neighbors for nearly two decades.”

“The answer to your question IS you. You see, ever since late January`17 me and the Missus have found it damned near impossible to not overhear you constantly yelling back at your radio during NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered newscasts… namely… your name-calling and cussing… your calling out the deplorable words and deeds of THAT pathetic narcissistic horse’s ass.”

“Do you find that even remotely shocking?”

“No! Not at at all. It’s just that your excessively dwelling on that contemptible, corrupt creep is not healthy, my man. If you’d like, I do have my PhD in Psychology and am willing to talk you through these tough times… pro bono… you know… the same way liberal talk jockey Randi Rhodes counseled you, way back in 2004… the day after W got reelected.”

“You actually recall my long ago on air, nationwide conversation with Ms. Rhodes?”

“Sure do. And I really do want to help you.”

“But, not paying you just wouldn’t feel right.”

“Friend Tom, you haven’t been charging me… not even one penny… for the nearly 20 years my family and I have been grazing in your clover patch, either.”

“Touché… friend Harry… touché!”

Coming down from my momentary reverie about Ms. Rhodes… as well as still attempting to wrap my mind around this talking rabbit scenario did take a moment or two. And Harry did use that temporal opportunity to full advantage by chowing down another couple of mouthfuls of clover. Due to his nearly impeccable table manners he didn’t speak again until after his gulp and loud belch. Remember (ha ha) I did say, “nearly impeccable.”

“While rabbitkind is genuinely interested in your well-being, we must also keep our own best interests in mind. And, uppermost on the minds of every creature… great and small… is global environmental distress. It all boils down to this, Tom. Your survival in this hood IS our survival. Were you to ever leave us… perhaps even head for the hills ISO some hippie dippy commune… that’d mean a new property owner, here. And what would be the odds that he wouldn’t be a grass farmer who’s been brainwashed by the toxic chemicals spewing, lawn care industry?”

“And not even growing the type of grass he could harvest and hawk for profit.”

“Precisely!”

We both momentarily chuckled while slowly, horizontally swaying our heads in disbelief.

“Tom, the entire rabbit community deems your clover field a culinary sweet treat and rates your backyard a five star eatery. We would never, ever want some lawn farmer to poison it with weed killer.”

“The good news, Harry… I plan on staying put, right here, till fiscal / physical death do us part… whichever happens first. The bad news, naturally, is how our neighbors’ toxic “cocktails” of fertilizers / insecticides / herbicides / homicides respect neither my property lines nor anyone else’s. Worse yet, when they (ab)use products such as Roundup™ they may even be condemning both themselves and innocent bystanders to premature Cancerous DEATHS!

“Why oh why must so damned many humans be ISO the psychotically perfect, grass blades only lawn? And do take my word for it… such grass only biomes taste bad even before the nasty lawn chemical “salad dressing” gets poured on.”

“I know exactly what you’re talking about, too. Not too long ago, I purchased some broccoli, which tasted the way nasty lawn chemicals stink. With my first bite, I nearly puked.”

“TMI Tom… TMI!”

Just as another momentary wind gust rustles the nearby, lilac’s leaves, Harry looks at his tiny cell phone screen and exclaims…

‘To quote Alice’s white rabbit, ‘Oh my dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers! I’m late!’ I gotta hurry home.”

“Me too. And albeit way too belated, I now officially and warmly welcome you to the neighborhood.”

“Thank you. Are you now a bit more convinced that we can really converse?”

“Well… friend Harry… it’s not my talking to you that’s unbelievable, it’s your talking to me. I mean… this REALLY DID happen, right?”

“Yes… friend Tom… this REALLY DID happen.”

 

 

To be continued…