Q: On America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks announces the girls who are staying by saying, “The next name I’m going to call is … [name of model].” Shouldn’t she then repeat the name? If you say you’re going to do something, in this case call a certain name, shouldn’t you then call the name?
A: You’re not the only person who’s bugged by this. We’ve noticed several other complaints online about the way Tyra Banks announces the names of the contestants who survive each elimination round of the reality television show.
Are the objections legitimate? Not in our opinion. We think a lot about English, but one can think too much about it.
Banks’s meaning is perfectly clear. No one would be confused. And you’d see many more complaints if she repeated the name of each model who’d escaped elimination.
Idiomatic English doesn’t have to make literal sense. It just has to make sense.
We’ve discussed idioms many times on the blog, including a post two years ago about these interesting peculiarities of language.
Your question reminds us of this famous, though mythological, exchange between George Burns and Gracie Allen at the end of their TV show in the 1950s:
George: “Say goodnight, Gracie.”
Gracie: “Goodnight, Gracie.”
It’s a funny bit, but Gracie never said it. Her actual reply: “Goodnight.”
In his 1988 book Gracie: A Love Story, Burns describes the longer response as a show-business myth.
The Yale Book of Quotations, edited by Fred R. Shapiro, speculates that the myth may have been reinforced by this actual exchange on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, a TV series from the late 1960s and early ’70s
Dan Martin: “Say goodnight, Dick.”
Dick Rowan: “Goodnight, Dick.”
Check out our books about the English language