Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's Something Fishy About That Pronunciation...

I have long been an advocate of good science journalism since, as Carl Sagan pointed out, the benefits (and risks) of science affect us all. If we as a society are to make wise choices about the use of science, we would be well advised to learn at least its basics.

That, of course, suggests there should be a role in society for journalists who are knowledgeable about science. Or, like Sagan, scientists who are adept at communicating the wonders and ideas emodied in scientific research.

For that reason, I was dismayed by a reporter on MSNBC who reported on a rare video of a juvenile Coelacanth taken by Japanese researchers.

Nothing wrong with that. They showed snippets of pretty Coelacanth video and spoke briefly about its rarity.

What got me, though, was way the reporter pronounced the word "Coelacanth". As any schoolkid who has ever sat through a unit on evolution can tell you, this classic example of a "living fossil" is pronounced "SEE-la-kanth". But our intrepid MSNBC anchor repeatedly pronounced it as "ko-ELLA-kanth".

On the one hand, I could be accused (with some justification) of being a pedantic butthead making a big deal about the simple mistaken pronunciation of an admittedly unusual word.

But the story of the Coelacanth is incredibly important in the history of science. It should be part of an intelligent person's lexicon, I would think. If the regular MSNBC anchor was THAT unfamiliar with the fish, why didn't they get a correspondent dedicated to science journalism to report the story?

I know... I just ask for too damned much, don't I?

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