Eviscerating cholera


I don’t know why, after all these years, I should still be surprised by odd pronunciations, but I am. Two that have recently come my way, both from the BBC, are eviscerate, pronounced /iˈvɪskəreɪt/ by Simon Sebag Montefiore presenting the first of a series of programmes on the history of Jerusalem, and cholera, pronounced /kəˈlɛərə/ by Sharanjit Leyl as presenter of a programme on BBC World.

Mr (Dr?) Sebag Montefiore is a historian, educated at Harrow and Gonville & Caius, Cambridge. I think we can assume that he therefore learned some Latin at school and maybe he now believes that all Latin words used in English should be pronounced as if they were still Latin. I wonder how he pronounces the name of his old college?

Sharanjit Leyl, a native Singaporean, has clearly, from her accent, spent almost all her life in English-speaking environments. Has she never heard anyone pronounce the word cholera?

Neither of these two words is what you might call ‘rare’. Shouldn’t someone in the production team be listening and persuading the broadcasters to use pronunciations which do not cause the viewer/listener to concentrate on the form rather than the content of what they are saying?

A former Presentation Editor of Radio 3 used to listen to every word his team uttered on air, and sent notes each time he heard something untoward. When I was Pronunciation Adviser, I would send notes similarly with my “advice”. I can’t believe that anyone does this now. There is no longer a Pronunciation Adviser, and while the members of the Pronunciation Unit are all highly qualified and very good at what they do,  I’m not sure that their management (who are not linguists, but administrators – “I’m a manager, therefore I can manage anything”) would take kindly to such notes going out in any form. I hope I am wrong.


  1. Don’t become /’kɒlərɪk/ when confronted with /kəˈleərə/. 😉

  2. See my blog post of Dec 9th on another of Sebag Montefiore’s pronunciation oddities.


  3. Petr – I do try to keep my cool, but it’s very difficult sometimes. And another one I’ve heard recently, from a voice over: /strəˈtiːdʒɪst/. Where do they find these people?

  4. In regard to /strəˈtiːdʒɪst/, I don’t find it /sӕkrə’liːʤɪst/

  5. What depresses me most is that the producers of these programmes (if indeed these programmes ARE produced, rather than merely recorded) are so clearly lacking in education themselves that they do not even notice these (let us call them:) eccentric pronunciations.

    How many people, at the BBC (or at the “independent production companies” who these days provide a significant part of the Corporation’s output) now LISTEN, critically, to programme content before it hits the airwaves?

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s not a case of deferring to the majesty of well-known broadcasters. Did no-one at the BBC _really_ notice, before the programme went out, that in a talk about Florence last year a very senior presenter of current-affairs and literary programmes on Radio 4 gave an account of the football-like game played in that city since ancient times, and called it …calico!

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