Thursday, March 03, 2011
The Perils of RTCMP (Updated with Confession)
As one of the Siren's favorite high-school English teachers used to say, "There are certain words, kids, that are in your reading vocabulary, but not your speaking vocabulary. And if you try to use a reading word when you're speaking, you risk sounding like an idiot."
Despite the studio heads' determination to endow old stars with simple names, there are a few Old Hollywood names that fall into this category. The Siren's tendency is to go with RTCMP, which of course stands for Received TCM Pronunciation. If she hears it a certain way on TCM, that's the way she says it.
Trouble is, on TCM, certain names aren't consistently said the same way.
So, for fun and educational purposes, the Siren decided to poll her readers on a group of names that she's heard different ways from different people who should know, on TCM and elsewhere. The Siren will post her own answers, and reasoning, later on. In the meantime, uh, how you say:
1. Tyrone Power. First name--accent on the first syllable, or the second?
2. Frtiz Lang. LANG, as in sang, or LAHNG? (The Siren also hears "Lung" from time to time. That can't be right.)
3. Douglas Sirk. SIRK, as in lurk, or SEERK?
4. Katharine Hepburn. Three syllables in the first name, or two? Or ('fess up) do you just sort of rush through it so people can't tell which you're doing?
5. Franchot Tone. Emphasis on which syllable of the first name? Cho, or Sho? Do you pronounce the t, say it fast so people can't tell if you did or you did not pronounce the t, or do you simply avoid referring to the man at all whenever possible?
6. Alida Valli. The Siren knows how to pronounce the first name, all right, but the second--accent on the first syllable, or the second?
7. Elissa Landi. The Siren leaves this one open, as she's heard people say that second name at least three different ways.
8. Sonja Henie. SAHN-ya or SOHN-ya?
9. Myrna Loy. MUHRNA, or MEERNA?
10. Robert Donat. Last name...anybody?
11. William Dieterle. Help a Siren out.
12. George Sanders. Plain old Sanders, like the purveyor of fried chicken, or SAHN-ders?
Note: The Siren's assuming we all know how to say Borzage at this point…right?
Note Number Two: If you have a name that consistently gives you trouble, or that hurts your ears when you hear it mispronounced, by all means, share.
Note Number Three: Are you wondering if the Siren went with this oddball post just to give her an excuse to post that mesmerizing picture of TY-rone or Ty-RONE Power up there? Wonder away.
All right, the Siren goes public with her answers. These are offered in the spirit of confession, not correction. Not all of them are right. Some of them definitely aren't.
1. Ty-RONE, but the Siren sounds very Bama even to her own ears saying that one, for some reason. More like Tah-ROHWWN.
2. LAHNG. The Siren's reasoning is the same as commenter Ned; he wears a monocle, it's Lahng. But god no, not Freetz. That would be like one of Mick Jagger's South American lady friends: "Meek! Meek!"
3. For years, it always rhymed with lurk. Then one fateful day, the Siren saw Molly Haskell discussing Written on the Wind on The Essentials with Robert Osborne. And Ms Haskell says "Seerk." This causes the Siren elocutionary anguish to this day. It makes perfect sense, as the original name was "Sierck," but everybody else says Sirk. The Siren switches it up, depending.
4. The Siren hereby confesses that one of the Alabama-isms she cannot shake is putting three syllables in Katharine, much like she can't stop herself from pronouncing the "l" in "folk" or emphasizing the first syllable in "umbrella."
5. The Siren avoids saying his name whenever possible. When it isn't, she says "FRANSH-oh" because that's how Gene Kelly says it in the title number from the anthology That's Entertainment.
9. For years the Siren said "Muhrna" like a normal person. Then, one day, as the benevolent shade of William Powell is her witness, she heard one of the TCM announcers (not Osborne, one of the faceless ones) say "Meerna." It confused her no end. She tried it for a little while and has sworn off it.
12. Another dark night of the vocal soul. The Siren always said "Sanders," as in Colonel. Then she saw Angela Lansbury discussing him and Ms Lansbury, who of course knew the man, said "SAHN-ders." Now, maybe that's just a British thing, and with all love for Yojimboen and the other U.K. natives who grace us here, British does not = correct. British = British. But still, it was Angela. LANSBURY. Now the Siren ping-pongs a bit.
Last notes on names in comments: THAY-da Bear-ah, Robert Osborne says ZAY-sue Pitts (for years the Siren said ZAZ-zu), and SEE-odd-mock, although she intends to adopt David Cairns' "see-odd-mack" since if poor Robert (a great director) had to wear a name tag the least she can do is respect his efforts.
And no, nobody says OH-pools. Nobody the Siren socializes with, anyway.