Monday, August 29, 2005

CNN and "New Orleans"

CNN International is extensively covering Hurricane Katrina. They're airing frequent reports from CNN's U.S. correspondents in the Gulf Coast area, and their meteorologists are providing frequent analyses that seem to be very competent. Like most Americans and many other people in the world, I'm following the story very closely and with great concern.

The devastation that will almost certainly be visited on the beautiful, historic city of New Orleans is particularly distressing. What makes it even sadder is we've always known this would happen, sooner or later. Like certain highly populated areas of California that will be devastated by huge earthquakes someday, it's always been a question not of if but of when.

There's no humor in the event, of course, but CNN International is lending a little unintentional humor of its own. Their anchor people are obviously chosen on some sort of quota basis. There's no other way to explain the representation among anchors of citizens of a wide variety of countries on every continent--well, maybe not Antarctica. The anchors are about half men and half women, with the women averaging at least 10 years younger than the men. The women, of course, are almost all drop-dead cute, at a minimum.

Few of the anchors seem to be journalists in any serious professional sense. Most of the women, in particular, don't appear to have been alive long enough to be real journalists. But I have to give them credit--they do a good job of reading whatever's on the teleprompter and posing canned questions to journalists in the field. Most would make good actors, in fact, which isn't far from what they are now.

CNN International has obviously made an effort to teach their anchors how to say "New Orleans." To their credit, the anchors all speak excellent English, no matter what their native language may be. Most have an accent of some sort, and most commonly it's tinged with a touch of England, undoubtedly reflecting where and how they were educated.

None of them are saying "New Orleans" with a full pronunciation of the "eans" like damn Yankees in the U.S. say it. Most are saying something like "New Orlins," which isn't too bad. Some American Yankees can even manage that. But some of them, probably as a result of CNN International's pronunciation guidance plus their own accents, are saying "Noo Awlins" just like a Cajun would say it. When it comes from some glamorous young anchor lady with obvious roots somewhere in or near Asia, it's hilarious--in a good way.

Larry King, of course, is an exception. He still says "New Orleans" like a New Yorker. I guess he didn't get the memo.


Anonymous howard said...

I'm not from the South, Tom, so I'm only guessing: is the proper pronunciation of New Orleans "Naw Lens"? I have a couple friends from down South (not LA, though) and they always used that two syllable version of the city's name.

2:51 AM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Sorry, Howard, "Naw Lens" doesn't sound right. There are a lot of interviews these days with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. They both say, correctly, "Noo Awlins" without too much stress on the "Noo" and appropriate stress on the "Aw."

This looks pretty silly in print, but that's the way to say it.

12:48 PM, September 02, 2005  

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