Everyone cringes when they hear their name mangled. We are our names and it is a simple matter of respect to try to get them right them for each other.
Messing with somebody’s name is a complete dick move, often designed to belittle and disempower them. That’s why the great Patrick Cook put so much effort into choosing the cruelly appropriate names for the politicians in his political satires. It’s one of the mysterious superpowers making First Dog On the Moon’s cartoons so potent. (My favourite? Clancy Dackbulge). And it’s why, whenever I made fun of Campbell Newman in this column, he was always Mr Strong Choices, never Mr Newman.
Lucy Zelic knows this is especially so when those names are the hard-to-pronounce handles for obscure football players who are nonetheless heroes to the fans who follow them on the unplanned coverage of the World Cup hosted by SBS.
In her conversation with Craig Foster about the undeserved abuse they’ve received from an unknown but significant number of massive idiots about their efforts to correctly pronounce the names of overseas players, Zelic spoke of the other people reaching out to them; the fans from small ethnic communities who’ve been delighted to hear the names of their players spoken truly for the first time. Ever.
It means so much to people and it costs nothing but an enormous effort, especially by Zelic according to her co-host, to learn the correct form. It was a high standard set by Les Murray, and Zelic especially has honoured his memory with her work.
So why are so many tools grieving her about it?
Well, they’re tools, of course. There’s always that.
And she’s a woman.
There’s definitely always that.
And nowadays I suppose there is no issue than cannot be fed into the furnace of the culture war. Because that’s all some people have left.
Zelic was probably lucky that most of Lord Rupert’s A-list trollumists were too busy losing their shit over losing their plastic shopping bags to pay much attention to her last week.
But that didn’t stop at least one lukewarm hot take from House of Rupe that, “We can all agree that it’s good manners to pronounce foreign words as best you can, but there’s a line beyond which you just sound like a show-off.”
And there’s a line beyond which you sound like a you’re making a business case for enabling the base instincts of the worst people.
I am famously not a soccer fan. There, I said it.
But I do love me some great journalism, and what Zelic and Foster have achieved at the World Cup, without any real chance to prep, and minimal support, as been an amazing example of world-class sports reportage.
They should get a Walkley.
Instead they get abuse.
John Birmingham is a columnist and blogger for the Brisbane Times. He is also an award winning magazine writer and the author of Leviathan, the Unauthorised Biography of Sydney, which won the National Award for Non-Fiction. He amuses himself in his down time by writing novels which improve with altitude.
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