Public intellectuals have to be able to speak English. But the more they’re revered, the worse their accents, diction, and prosody are.

  1. ŽIŽEK!: Truly Nº 1 with a bullet is Slavoj Žižek, a madman with a speech impediment and hačeks by the barrel. Even more baffling is his ability to understand German questions and answer them in English (once in a blue moon, he can utter a German sentence).

  2. Jean-François Gariépy: Hands down the worst pea-soup accent I’ve ever heard, and I grew up around subliterate Acadians. Of course he can’t pronounce “development” (none of them can, not even sitting prime ministers), but worse is his inability to pronounce even simple, essential words like “idea” (“aiii·dee”). His writing is also chock full of French interference, and he turned down my paid help to unfuck such writing.

    Americans add insult to injury by acting, first, as though they cannot even read the name Gariépy (former typesetter Jim Goad couldn’t reproduce it correctly, even working from real rendered text and after two tries [“GARLEPY”; “GARIEPY”]), then further acting as though “Gariépy” is hard to pronounce. You just say every letter.

  3. Yuval Harari: Also mispronounces seriously important words. (From a single appearance on Sam Harris: apex; cause; chasm; coöperation; thought.)

    Nobody wants to tell a bestselling gay Israeli that his accent is an abomination, but that just means he hasn’t met me yet. (I asked his agency why he hasn’t made any efforts to improve. [They later responded with the expected fluency: “Thanks for your E‑mail – we took it to our attention.”])

  4. Evgeny Morozov: Afflicted with the Slavic inability to distinguish [i]/[ɪ] and other tense/lax vowel minimal pairs. (His response years ago: “Do you think I’m really that stupid to get rid of my accent? That’s the only thing that got me where I am!”)

  5. Alexander Bard, a Swedish former dance musician who does not per se want to be understood; what he wants is to steamroll(er) you with brute speed. That’s among the more deplorable intellectual habits, joining forces with failing to define terms of art as one goes (cf. Layne Norton on Joe Rogan).

    Bard is a special case, in that he insisted, on the Aron Flam secondary podcast and in messages, that a “Scandinavian accent” exists. Well, it does, but it’s still deficient, notably in the habit, familiar from Abba, of devoicing [z]/[ʒ] to [s]/[ʃ] in nearly all cases. (“Walking through an empty house, tearss in my eyess: Here iss where the story endss. This iss goodbyyye.”) Bard isn’t just a poor communicator but an arrogant bastard, so I kept notes of his mispronunciations:

    • Abrahamic

    • alienated

    • atheist

    • banal

    • chieftain

    • circuit

    • colours

    • contribute

    • distributed

    • hierarchical

    • hypotheses

    • Job

    • Jung

    • libido

    • matriarch, patriarch (Bard argued vociferously about these two, and remained in the wrong)

    • Portugal

    • totalitarian

    • Yiannopoulos

Honourable mention: Glenn Greenwald speaking Brazilian Portuguese (YouTubé).

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2019.01.07 14:12. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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