I hadn’t watched television in the morning since a year ago when I had a head cold and felt too tired to do anything constructive and too bleary-eyed to read or work at the computer. It had been quite a few years since I’d had a cold and I more or less rediscovered that the absolutely worst thing about having a cold is daytime television. Since then, I’d stubbornly left the set turned off before news time at five o’clock, until that first snowy, blowy day we had last January. In a fit of reckless curiosity and cabin-fever boredom, I switched on the television set and settled down with a cup of coffee, hoping things had improved. I should have known better.
I stuck it out for a whole hour and found myself reaching for a pencil to make notes of some of the things I found annoying about the programs I was watching. These included parts of two different programs and all the accompanying commercials. It’s a good thing I don’t have a job as a television critic. I’d probably make a lot of enemies and run out of adjectives to describe some of the silly, pointless things that people discuss on talk shows. Now, I admit that I don’t go to many movies, and I don’t watch those television shows that dwell on the news about celebrities and the business of entertainment. I don’t read People Magazine or similar publications. I am also equally out of touch with most of the goings on in the world of sports. I tend to agree with a statement I heard years ago (I’ve forgotten by whom) that Americans are the only people in the world who treat news like sports and sports like news.
That said, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that all the celebrities appearing on the two talk shows I saw that day were totally unknown to me. One would suppose that, after watching the program, I would have at least a foggy idea of who they were and what they do, but such is not the case. The conversation (if you can call it that) went sort of like this:
TV Hostess; I understand you had a rather unique adventure last time you were here in the States.
Celebrity; Well, yeah. (Haw-haw-haw.) I guess you could call it unique. I didn’t do it, though, it was done to me.
Hostess; And you had no idea?
Celeb; Not a clue. Still don’t.
Hostess; Embarrassing, huh?
Celeb; You’ll never know the half of it.
End of discussion. We’ll never know half of it, in fact, we’ll never know any of it. The interviewee, I did figure out, was a musician of some sort, because he did go on to plug a concert tour that was coming up. The same sort of non-interview transpires when the guest celebrity is a sports figure, only things are more confusing for me because I’ve never even heard of the majority of the athletes. The questions are always the same, and the answers always sound like a junior high coach at a pep rally.
A cooking segment on one of the shows involved provolone cheese, which the celebrity chef insisted on pronouncing as having three syllables, omitting the final long E. I’ve always understood it is a four-syllable word that rhymes with “cold baloney.” My Italian cookbook agrees with me, and so does my English dictionary. A little later, guacamole was treated to the same abuse by being called “gwakamol” (silent e) rather than begun with the soft, breathy “hw” sound you’ll hear in Mexico. I can understand most Americans not getting the G sound right. But leaving off the final long E is going a little too far.
A news break included a description of the storm that was moving across Iowa at the time. Nobody listens to me when I explain that the word “ongoing” does not mean the same thing as “happening now.” Something that is ongoing is perpetual, never-ending, as perhaps the pattern of the ocean tides the changing of the seasons, or evolution. To say that a family feud is ongoing is stretching it a bit even though it may last for generations, but to say that a blizzard is ongoing– declaring that it will never end– is just plain scary. A commercial for prescription insurance referred to it as “ar-ex” insurance. What looks a lot like Rx on your prescription is not the letters R and x, but rather a symbol used in pharmacy which literally means “take this.” I really can’t have much confidence in a prescription policy offered by a company that doesn’t even understand that.