Monday, December 26, 2005

Anchorman's Chanukah Goofs

To Fry For: Festival of Lights ... CBS 3: Larry Mendte

“We call them Twinkies. You've seen them on television acting the news, modeling and fracturing the news while you wonder whether they've read the news - or if they've blow-dried their brains, too.” Linda Ellerbee

Newscaster Larry Mendte of the local CBS affiliate, Channel 3 did something dumb tonight. It was an innocent gaffe, but still a bit of an insult to area Jews. He mispronounced the names of two traditional items associated with Chanukah.

In a story about Chanukah celebrations, Mendte referred to one of the holiday's typical foods as "lat-keys." You could hear a whisper in the background, then he quickly corrected himself, "Sorry, I meant to say 'lat-kas.' "

Larry moved gamely on to cover his mistake. "Children are given presents at Chanukah," he explained to viewers, "including the traditional Chanukah 'Jelt.' "

Jelt? Uh, no, Larry, they're given Chanukah Gelt, pronounced with a hard G. Gelt is a German word for money. Not in daily American use to be sure, but if a newscast is doing a story on the traditions of a religious holiday, the anchorman should get the names right.

Including latkas. Also known as potato pancakes. They're served in restaurants. You can buy them year round at any deli or in the frozen food section of your supermarket. Many people do. Not all of them Jews. But clearly, none of them named Mendte.

I should point out that we were watching the news with friends who are not Jewish -- in fact they're Catholic. But even they knew the correct pronounciations. And we all laughed in disbelief at Mendte's inept mistakes.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not such a big deal, but it annoyed the hell out of me. Not just as a Jew, but as a Philadelphian. We shouldn't have to laugh at a top news anchor in the country's 4th largest market for sounding like a rube. He should know better -- or his team should make sure he's properly prepared.

On the other hand, I guess we should be grateful Larry didn't say Happy "Chan-oo-ka."

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Blogger Tommy Baby said...

Larry is usually better than that. I know during the installation of the Cardinal he was perfect with the Italian and Latin terms. The again he did go to Monsignor Bonner.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Larry Mendte said...

I am guilty as charged and down right mortified. My Jewish friends let me have it and I deserved every shot. I can promise this...I will never make the same mistake again.

-Larry Mendte

10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A year and a half later, I happened to see this item, and feel compelled to let Mr. Mendte off the hook for one of his "mispronunciations". Like many of my friends, I was born and raised in Boston, and had Litvak grandparents who spoke both Yiddish and English around me. We learned to pronounce "latkes" as "lat-keys". On Friday nights we ate "hull-lee" and our shabbos morning treat was a coffee cake called "bup-key". On Succos we celebrated in a structure called a "sukkee" and grandparents were called "Bobbee and Zaydee". Non-Jewish women were "shiksees", etc.
To this day, Boston raised Jews recognize each other by our particular Yiddish dialect, although many of us often will say things like "challah" and "bubkah" so our New York friends won't think we have lapsed into some sort of Yiddish babytalk. If anybody reading this is a linguist, I've always wondered whether this phenomenon has something to do with Litvak-Yiddish, Boston accents, or both.

10:36 AM  

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