BBC Today programme


On the Today programme this morning on BBC Radio 4, Nick Robinson interviewed my successor in the Pronunciation Unit, Catherine Sangster (who is now in charge of pronunciation for the Oxford Dictionaries) about the problems of pronunciation. This piece arose out of his botched attempt to pronounce some Polish names in yesterday’s programme. What was not said was that when the Today programme is on air, the Pronunciation Unit is not open – if they are still working the office hours that they were when I was working there – which means that Mr Robinson could not ring for help. However, neither was it said that the whole of the pronunciation index, which must be approaching half a million entries by now, if not more, is available 24 hours a day via the database which is accessible on all BBC computer terminals, and which includes an audio possibility. Even if the specific person being interviewed is not already in the system, there are many family names and given names from which the total name might be compiled.
Now I know that the presenters on that programme are incredibly busy, and don’t have much time to consult any sort of help during the transmission, but there are researchers in the ‘back office’ who are setting up the interviews, and finding the interviewees. Why can’t they ask how the interviewee would like their name to be pronounced, and provide a crib sheet for the presenter? This would prevent the sort of embarrassment that Mr Robinson was subjected to yesterday when apologising for his poor Polish pronunciation, and was told “apology accepted”!
The question also arises – why was a previous member of the Pronunciation Unit being interviewed, and not one of the current staff?

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.