Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hey! Rielle Is Not Really Riley

My old pal Paul Mulshine riffs on the most mispronounced name in America.

An excerpt:
"I did a bit of research and tracked the error to the Associated Press broadcast unit in Washington, D.C. When the AP people send out transcripts for broadcast, they include pronunciations of difficult names. They do amazingly well with guys like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but they stumbled on the much simpler first name of Hunter.

Jack Stokes, the manager of the media relations for the AP, told me that the mistake apparently originated with the Los Angeles bureau.

'As far as I can determine, our L.A. bureau apparently had the name on file from some previous thing as 'Riley,' Stokes told me. 'And then an AP videographer contacted her friend Pigeon, and that's how we got the proper pronunciation.'

That would be Pigeon O'Brien. This story would be worth reporting for the names alone, never mind the politics.

Anyone can make a mistake. But what I find appalling is the way this mistake was mindlessly repeated by talking heads too numerous to mention. Apparently not a single brain inside a blow-dried head bothered to say something like 'Riley? That can't be right!'

It's true that proper names can have idiosyncratic pronunciations, as in the case of Bette Davis. She was seeking a faux-French effect when she went west and took that stage name.

But when former Manhattan party girl Lisa Druck moved to California and reinvented herself as a New Age princess, she is highly unlikely to have conjured up such a name and then pronounced it like that of the working-class hero of the 'The Life of Riley,' if I may cite a TV show from my school days. Clearly she was seeking a more cosmic image."
So repeat after me: Hunter's name is pronounced Ree-elee, not Riley.

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