The Dreaded Word

“Change please…”

Every working announcer has one. It’s “the” word. The one you just cannot pronounce properly in a naturally flowing sentence. For many it’s “regularly,” as in,”… regularly $19.99, now only… (etc.).”  Half the time it comes out as, “reg-a-lee”. Personally, my word is “integral.” Keeps coming out as “intra-gull,” dammit!

There are only two ways to overcome these problem words when you encounter them in a script. Either change the word to something else that means the same thing, or change the way you say the word. Most of the time either our pride or the copywriter will forbid us to change the word, so let’s study how to go about changing the way we view the word… making it easier to pronounce correctly.

We can say the word over and over several times correctly and then immediately begin to read the sentence containing the word, record it, and hope that it will feel more familiar and flow smoothly off our tongue. But, somehow that old trick doesn’t always work and we have to try something different.

My first trick is to rewrite the entire sentence in the margin of the script, and change the spelling of the word to something phonetic and, preferably, familiar. “Regularly” might become “regular-lee” or “reg-you-lurly”. Your brain knows that the different spelling is coming, so it won’t surprise you, and you should be able to let your brain absorb the letters and trigger your mouth to pronounce what your eyes see, producing a nice, normal-sounding “regularly”.

My second trick is to change the pace of the sentence…. break the flow into a different, but alternatively correct pattern. I may change the place where I would ordinarily take a breath. Or I’ll use a different inflection or emphasis on an adjacent word. I’ll find something to change in the sentence that still sounds correct, but shatters the mind-lock that has occurred from trying too many times to say “the” word.

One last resort is good old Webster’s Dictionary. Look the word up and pray for alternative acceptable pronunciations. Then hope the producer will let you use a less common, but still proper pronunciation. My bugaboo word, “integral”, is correct with the emphasis on either the first or second syllable: IN-te-gral, or in-TEG-ral. The first is preferred but, on a bad day, the second may be my salvation!

If you still can’t seem to get something to work, you can always hope you have a talented guy at the controls. With today’s DAWs, a clever engineer can almost create a word by assembling pieces of other words… or, at least, take the one and only close approximation you uttered (in a passing comment you made while the Record light was still on) and stick it in one of the outtakes to produce a clean-sounding version. If the engineer talks about razor blades and tape with an air of nostalgia, he’s your guy! Or gal