I don’t know how my husband manages to watch CNN Headline News. I almost always seem to find something in their newscasts that drives me nuts. If it isn’t the way the simpering newscasters attempt to pull off a look of sympathy after showing a gut-wrenching news clip it’s that they seem to lack a quality I find integral to broadcast journalists–the ability to articulate; to turn thoughts to words quickly when not reading off a teleprompter.
Today I heard a CNN newscaster, talking about the California wildfires, say that, “the damages have caused billions of damages.” Now, I might write that off as a slip of the tongue, but that sort of slip happens so often on CNN, particularly during the daytime Headline News broadcasts.
What I found more annoying occurred when one newscaster was discussing CNN’s bulletin board feature with another. Newscaster #1, presiding over the bulletin board, had just read a comment from a man who had lost his home to the wildfires and watched his memories go up in flames. With a heartfelt look, Newscaster #2, the anchor, commented that “talking about this must be cathargic for people.”
Cathargic? You mean cathartic, sweetheart. Apparently you were absent the day your class learned that little vocabulary word in high school English, huh?
Just for kicks, I Googled “cathargic” and came up with 620 results. Almost every time I saw cathargic used it was clear from the context that the author meant cathartic. None of the results I found were from what I would consider intelligent sources, although one was a comment in a blog from someone who said he’d discovered that cathargic meant “causes evacuation of the bowels.” I found no such thing (because no matter how hard one tries, apparently cathargic is still not a word), although cathartic means “purging,” and it can be used to refer to something with a strong laxative effect. Either way I like the comedic value in this definition.
Imagine the bubble-headed newscaster:
“Talking about the fires must be cathargic for people. I mean, because first you say, ‘Holy shit, my house is on fire!’…and then you do it!” (With apologies to Bill Cosby, who used that joke in another context.)
Now, I’m no genius and I certainly do not possess perfect grammar skills or a vast vocabulary, but I do expect the people who deliver my news to be articulate and to use real words instead of made up ones.
I guess I’ve seen Broadcast News too many times.