Jewish World Review Oct. 21, 2002 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Media mental midgets | If I hear another television taking head utter the phrase, "it's deja vu all over again," I swear I'll put my foot through the TV screen! The term deja vu as defined in the dictionary is described as "an impression of having seen or experienced something before." Deja vu is the term to use when describing that feeling. Adding "all over again" is redundant, of course, and was originally coined by Yogi Berra, the famous baseball player and infamous word mutilator.

Yogi's quotes are as legendary as they are funny. Gems such as " it isn't over till it's over" and "nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded" have found their way into the American lexicon. Some of his lines, although humorous, have elements of truth and wisdom to them. But mostly they just sound more profound than they really are; "You can observe a lot just by watchin'." Books have been written on them and public speakers have been stealing from Yogi for years.

But getting back to the deja vu quote, when Yogi first said it, it was cute and it was a joke. So many people have picked up on it through the years, that now when it is used no one credits it as a Yogi-ism anymore. I believe many people may actually think the proper expression is "deja vu all over again." It drives me nuts. And news broadcasters and others who make their living talking publicly should know better.

Another thing that drives me nuts is when broadcasters (and sometimes even police spokesmen) use the word "gentleman" to describe a suspected criminal. I hear it time and time again. It usually goes something like this: "Police have put out an all-points bulletin for the rapist and murderer of seven year-old Tracy Jones. The suspect is described as a Latino gentleman wearing a baseball cap and black shirt and jeans." Why not just say Latino (or white or black or whatever) MAN? Why use the term gentleman? Fred Astair and Cary Grant were gentlemen, a bum who rapes and kills is a ----- well, he ain't no gentleman.

The word "alleged" is another word often misused. I don't know if it's political correctness or just fear of law suits, but the media misuses it constantly -- to the point of absurdity, as in "the alleged suspect." Yes, I've actually heard that phrase used by television news reporters. How can you be an alleged suspect? Either you are suspected of something or you're not. "Charles Manson, the purported, so-called, alleged murder suspect, so to speak." (I made that one up).

Common words are routinely mispronounced on local newscasts -- this is nothing new. Recently, however, I've heard words that most 12 year-olds can say correctly murdered by professional announcers on national commercial spots. Now I know darn well how many people are involved in the making of a television commercial. And I know that all the agency suits and the sponsor executives and the network muckamucks hear these things BEFORE they air. So how does embarrassing, dumb-sounding pronouncement mistakes get through? Are they ALL morons? Don't answer that -- it's purely a rhetorical question.

Apparently, from time to time, somebody in a room somewhere decides to change the pronunciation of certain words for no good reason at all. The latest favorite seems to be that of a certain mild white cheese. No, it's not jack -- as far as I know, jack is still jack. The one I'm referring to is the white stringy cheese they put on pizza -- mozzarella. All my life mozzarella was pronounced MOAT- SE -REL- E. Now all the pizza commercials pronounce it MATZA-RELLA. Very long "A" pronounced like a combination of a Jewish cracker (matzo) and a French fairytale princess (Cinderella).

Sounds like a joke: What do you call a Jewish fairytale princess? Matza-rella.

With the latest terrorist bombings in Indonesia, comes the latest pronunciation of Bali. According to most of the nightly news readers, that place is pronounced BALL-E (like rubber ball). Up until now I always heard it called BAL-E (rhymes with Sally). But that's the old way, I guess, and it's just not said that way anymore. Although, come to think of it, seems to me there was one reporter recently, who pronounced it in the old fashion. And guess what? When I heard it, it seemed like deja vu all over again.

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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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© 2001 Greg Crosby