What’s in a name?

26 January, 2007

Perhaps the greatest danger of modern media is that it perpetuates errors by continually referencing itself rather than any original source — to the degree that the error eventually totally occludes the truth.

Eventually, the error becomes the truth.

The reasons are many: laziness, time pressure, lack of professional training or basic education, ignorance, stupidity, herd instinct. None of them noble and all have the same result.

Maria SharapovaA trivial but really annoying example: these days, a very large proportion of female tennis players have Russian names which sports commentators appear to have great difficulty pronouncing (along with many English words encountered above a grade three primer).

For their benefit the World Tennis Association has published a guide for broadcasters. Sadly, this has eight out of ten seriously wrong.

The WTA’s response to criticism has been that along the lines that “this is how most Americans would pronounce them and the players would go along with that”.

The prime example would be one of the world’s highest earning and most successful women players, Maria Sharapova. Russian speakers assure me that this is pronounced “sha-RAH-pa-vuh”, as do authorities overwhelmingly and, most significantly of all, the lady herself.

Now here is the kicker. I have read reports of prominent sport and news broadcasters knowingly using the popular but incorrect pronunciation for fear of being thought ignorant!

Truly, the inmates now run the asylum.

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