The Grammarphobia Blog

Talk radio: naturalness vs. clarity

Q: Most people don’t pronounce the “d” in “Raymond James.” Yet there’s an announcer on WNYC who makes sure to pronounce every letter. The result sounds awkward, as if there’s a little trip-up between the names. Is there a right way to pronounce this?

A: Normally, one wouldn’t separately articulate the “d” at the end of one name and the “j” at the beginning of the next. As you suggest, that would require a distinct separation of the names, which would created an audible bump.

In natural-sounding speech, these two letters would be somewhat elided, sounding like the “dg” in “fudge.” So the name would sound like “Raymon Djames.”

Similarly, in speaking a phrase like “broad jump,” one would normally elide the “d” and the “j” (as in BRAW-djump). Pronouncing each of those letters distinctly would require an exaggerated separation of the words, with a marked space in between.

When we speak normally, we don’t always insert a space between words, as we do when we write. Phrases are connected, even when we speak slowly.

Some abutting consonants simply don’t want to be pronounced separately. (A phonetician would give you a better explanation, having to do with tongue placement and so on.)

That radio announcer’s pronunciation wasn’t wrong, just a bit forced or unnatural. This isn’t a matter of correctness. Announcers don’t always use what most of us would consider natural speech. (How many Americans really say NYOOZE for “news”?)

In this case, naturalness was sacrificed for clarity, and that may not be a bad thing. No doubt the intention was to make the name as clear as possible. And in that, the announcer certainly succeeded.

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