Jewish World Review June 13, 2003 / 13 Sivan, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Pitchers At Eleven | What is it with so many young women reporters and news readers on television these days that they can't pronounce the word "picture?" I first heard it on Fox News Channel and thought it might be a peculiarity with that news organization, but since then, I've heard other female newsies use it on other stations, both cable and local. At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, it appears to be a predilection with the female staff, although I'm sure there must be young men reporters/readers who pronounce the word wrong also, I have not yet heard one.

It usually goes something like this: "The bombing happened only about an hour or so ago, and we hope to have some live PITCHERS of the scene for you very shortly." At first I thought maybe they were going to cut to a few baseball players for their point of view on the story, but no -- she meant "pictures" like in video transmission.

That an isolated individual might stumble over a word like "picture" is certainly excusable and natural. That a highly paid television reader would make a practice of consistently mispronouncing what should be a common, easily enunciated word is irritating to say the least. That the news channel would ALLOW its reader to engage in the practice is plain wrong. Wrong, but completely understandable.

It is understandable because in today's P.C. climate, no one is allowed to tell anyone else what is correct pronunciation and what is not. That would be too judgmental. And who is to say that one person's pronunciation is any more correct than any other's? After all, we must stand back and look at the BIG PITCHER. And I'm not talking about Sandy Kofax or the Kool-aid character. If it may appear that I'm obsessing a bit too much over this "pitcher"/ "picture" thing, it is only because I see this breakdown in communication as the tip of an iceberg. If we, as a society, cannot hold to certain rules, whether those rules are in language, or manners, or decency, or law, then our culture as we know it is doomed.

We've already witnessed the total decline in standards of dress. Try finding a restaurant that requires a jacket or tie anymore. People attending Sunday morning church in shorts and tank tops is common -- as a matter of fact, the church is happy that the person came at all. "Dressing" for anything in our society short of a formal wedding is just about over. California is leading other state and local governments in passing new laws that require hiring regardless of how the prospective employee wishes to dress -- or not to dress.

In California, if a man wishes to dress as a woman on the job, the employer cannot stop him. If a woman wishes to wear pants on the job, it doesn't matter if the employer might prefer that she wear a dress or skirt, she can wear whatever she wants. No one is allowed to tell anyone else how to look anymore. Hair down to the floor? Fine. Shaved head with a big tattoo? Okey-dokey. A million studs and rings in your face? Perfect!

There are so many other examples of our cultural decline that, by now, it is redundant and pointless for me to attempt to list them. Countless books and articles have been written on the subject over the last ten years or so, including several exhaustive, and quite excellent, studies. One of the best reads on the topic is Jacques Barzun's "From Dawn To Decadence" published in 2000 by HarperCollins. William Safire called the book "a stunning five-century study of civilization's cultural retreat."

Suffice it to say that we are most definitely in a downward trend, and that is why it saddens me whenever I see another example of eroding propriety dancing across my television screen. Little things like words might not mean much one at a time, but put together with other refinements and niceties that have disappeared, can add up to a great loss for us as a society.

Get the pitcher?

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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