Saturday, May 4, 2019

Colbert does it again

People have criticized me for unfairly ragging on Stephen Colbert's Tolkien spasms on his tv show, but this time ... this time he's really gone and done it. This time, nobody can say he's not totally mixed up.

So he's interviewing Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, the stars of the new bio-pic about Tolkien, and Colbert is saying Toll-kin with emphasis on the first syllable and they're saying Toll-keen with even emphasis on both syllables and they're saying that's right and that they learned it from listening to Judi Dench narrate a documentary, and they're trying to teach it to Colbert and he's having a hard time getting it.

And in fact they are right, -keen is the preferred second syllable.

And then Colbert tries to explain how he got it wrong. He says that in high school, the people who read Tolkien were much the same as the people who read science fiction (true enough, at least in his day and mine), so they would say Toll-kin because they said Robert A. Hine-lin because they're spelled the same.


First off, they're not spelled the same. J.R.R. Tolkien. Robert A. Heinlein. I-E in one, E-I in the other. Unless Colbert is one of those cretins who spells it "Tolkein"?

Second, I don't know what they may have said down in South Carolina where Colbert comes from, but I've never heard anyone say Hine-lin. Where I've heard it, it's universally Hine-line. Even emphasis on both syllables, like Toll-keen. They're both German names, and that's the vowel in German; I-E is pronounced E and E-I is pronounced I. That's not how that combo is always in English, and some people with German names in the US reverse the pronunciation, but most don't.

The science-fiction writer they always get wrong is Fritz Leiber. Nobody misspells his name, like Tolkien's, but they say Lee-ber. That's wrong; it's Lye-ber. I have that from the man himself. I don't know why they get it wrong; it's the same combo as Heinlein. I've taken to referring to the latter as Heen-leen to mock this, but it doesn't help.

So, Colbert, what the bleeping bleep?

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