Speaking without thinking

It may take three to make a series of events, but I’m sure the third of this will come sooner rather than later. I’m talking about TV people who use words they don’t know and embarrassing themselves in front of the world.

WJW, February 23, 2015
WJW, February 23, 2015

The first happened Monday morning in Cleveland, on WJW-Channel 8’s morning newscast. Kristi Capel used the racially offensive term “jigaboo” to describe the musical arrangements during Lady Gaga‘s performance at the Academy Awards, the night before.

2015-02-22 Lady Gaga Oscars
Lady Gaga

That J-word is considered derogatory towards African-Americans.

Yesterday, Capel took to the air, saying she deeply regrets her “insensitive comment” and “truly did not know the meaning of the word and would never intentionally use such hurtful language.” I believe her. She won’t be on TV for the rest of the week. The station isn’t saying if it’s a suspension.

E!, February 24, 2015
E!, February 24, 2015
2015-02-22 Zendaya Oscars
Zendaya

Also Monday, Giuliana Rancic (somebody I’ve never heard of) on E!’s Fashion Police (a cable channel I never watch) joked that singer-actress Zendaya’s (somebody else I’ve never heard of) dreadlocks at the previous night’s Oscars suggested a smell “like patchouli oil or weed.”
(E! should apologize for all the Kardashians but that’s another story!)

Then yesterday, Rancic apologized and said the reaction to her remarks has increased her awareness of damaging “clichés and stereotypes,” and – get this – on-air people have the responsibility to avoid perpetuating them. I believe her, as well.

These days, the bar to get on TV is very low. Right now I’m sitting at Firestone, waiting for an oil change, and they have some stupid show called The Real on TV. It’s awful! But my point is, people on TV or speaking before the public should be literate. They should know the language they’re speaking, and have some fluency, and make sense. Sometimes we forget words. That happens. It’s part of aging. But using words or phrases we don’t know?

When I was teaching, students and parents thought I knew Spanish. I don’t. Just a couple of words. But I only used words that I knew. People overheard and told me they hadn’t realized I knew the language. This happened frequently even though I sounded like a gringo.

If you know more words or languages, then good for you! You can use them. But if you don’t, stay away from trouble. It’s not worth it. Instead of coming across as smart, you come across as the total opposite.

I was taught to write for TV on a 3rd grade level, because nobody watches with a dictionary in front of them. In other words, keep it simple. There’s even a phrase for that and I’ve been told many times (but for overthinking): KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid (Silly).

But these remarks weren’t overthinking. They were probably both unscripted ad libs. My advice: Be yourself. Don’t try to impress too much. You already got the job!

Neither of these TV people did anything malicious. They just said things that weren’t too smart. And who hasn’t? Hopefully, all the publicity will be their lessons and teach others as well.

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