Yet They Always Pronounce “Nicaragua” Flawlessly…

Tomorrow I’ll post an in-depth piece on the Flyjin Phenomenon. But this (below) won’t wait.

Wincing & Cringing.

Jim Zarroli is a “business reporter” for National Public Radio (NPR).  He’s in Tokyo now.  He’s also, I’m afraid to say, a tool.  I’m still wincing, cringing and gagging at a Jim Zarroli report from Tokyo which wound-up about a half-hour ago.  In that piece I and millions like me had to endure listening to him murder Japanese, the language that is.  He couldn’t even say the 3-syllable “Shibuya” correctly.  Shibuya is a central Tokyo ward.  Anyway, Zarroli wasn’t even in the ballpark.  So here’s this reporter in the middle of a city of 13 million and he can’t or won’t bother to find one person to double-check his pronunciation of a 3-syllable word before broadcasting to the world.  Lord love a duck.

And what’s even worse:  Zarroli was doing this vapid, puff piece on the electricity cutbacks in Tokyo . . . while a humanitarian crisis continues on the Northeast Japan coast.  One of the people he interviewed even said as much, said that some electricity inconveniences were the least they could bear in Tokyo when so many people up north are suffering.

NPR:  shockingly mixed-up priorities coated with the added insult of bunging-up simple words.


So, I’ve been going back and forth via email with an NPR Regional Bureau Chief all day long.  If I may summarize his many, many, many paragraphs:

“We’re NPR.  We know more than everybody.  I know nothing of Japan, and don’t speak any Japanese but I’ll correct yours .  We’ve dumped lots of reporters on the scene in Japan.  Shut up about about quality, look at our quantity!  By the way, did I mention we know more than everybody?  I speak Spanish and French.”

I’m sure I’ve left out some things, but that’s it in a nutshell.

Silver lining: I’ve found out that one of the local program directors is a pretty cool guy and we both share a lot of the same musical tastes.  So it hasn’t been an entirely wasted effort.

    • Joli Knott
    • March 30th, 2011

    “Lord love a duck.” — Excellent expression–I love it!

    And I have to agree–most Japanese words aren’t really that hard to pronounce, and I’m usually impressed with how most BBC anchors manage to pronounce the names of countries and cities around the world… NPR should be able to do better than that (and I’m glad I didn’t hear it–I’d probably STILL be cringing!)…

      • letsjapan
      • March 30th, 2011


      Agree 100%: (most) Japanese is not difficult to pronounce (compared to many other languages)! Yes, NPR should be able to do better than that. Seems it’s just chosen not to. And this isn’t the first time.

      As for “Lord love a duck,” I have to credit Evelyn Waugh with that. An expression his Ambrose Silk muttered in Put Out More Flags. I think I may have heard it before, but I’m not sure. Ambrose spoke it to himself, or actually just thought it, now that I recall, while sitting at a restaurant table listening to a bevy of pseudo-intellects babbling away in their vapid, shallow way.

    • Gigi
    • April 1st, 2011

    “Lord, love a duck”!! Love it… I haven’t heard that expression in a very long time.

    And, skedaddle and skedaddled and skedaddling. Now would that be a world – renown word or a south AL word? I know. Just looked it up on and it really is a word; here I thought you were just using southern terms..Mercy

    And NPR? Noooooo…

      • letsjapan
      • April 1st, 2011


      I take a small measure of pride in doing what I can to keep old expressions, if they’re good ones, in the current lexicon. A favorite of Mark Twain’s, “chucklehead,” remains a favorite of mine and fits many a contemporary politician or bologna-filled Media Blatherers to a “T,” don’t you think?

      Skeddadle. That word actually became part of Civil War lore. In May 1862 at the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas, as it’s known in the South) an apparent Union Union victory became a Union defeat, followed by an utter routing of Union forces (and many civilians from nearby Washington, DC who came earlier in the day with picnic baskets expecting to watch an entertaining drubbing of “Johnny Re”) and discombobulated, panicked retreat back to the safety of the Nation’s Capital. The humiliating defeat became known as “The Great Skedaddle.” Look it up. You’ll see.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Yes, NPR, quite disappointing.


    • Gigi
    • April 1st, 2011

    Amazing. I have an undergrad degree in Social Science and I have never heard that so thank you so much for the history lesson.
    I am enjoying your blog so very much. Really about the only thing I knew about Japan before was from Stephen’s love of it. And how clean it is especially compared to us (as in U.S.) Again, thanks for this site…

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