Sunday, June 8, 2014

D-Day redivivus

On June the sixth, we posted this:

            A factoid for D-Day

That brief note swelled into an essay, available here:

            Parallel Lives

With that, we thought to have had done with it.
But it was not to be.


Tonight (the evening of the eighth of June), as every Sunday at this time,  I set up next to the radio, and tied off a vein, in preparation for my weekly injection of “Johnny Dollar” (“the man with the action-packed expense-account”) on “The Big Broadcast”, on WAMU.  But was surprised -- and then abashed, indeed abashed at my surprise -- to hear instead  a program dedicated to the radio broadcasts of that fateful day, when our troops at last landed at Normandy beach.

Just a couple of stray observations (for I was not alive at the time of the events, and have no special information to add).

(1)  It is striking, the spare quality of the reports.   As, one, live, in the midst of the events, the sound of warfare clearly audible in the background,

“This is Rome.”

Which particular newshound was speaking at that moment, was not then mentioned.  It did not matter.  We were hearing ground-truth, from Rome.

It is difficult to avoid comparison with the media of today, in which the truth of the news is secondary, and the personalities of the reporters -- or, these, days, not really even reporters, but talking-heads -- is put to the fore. 

(2)  Hearing those crackling old accents of the time, my Pronunciation-Editor instincts kicked in, and I could not help noticing certain phonological facts.

(a)  I had been musing (for other reasons) recently, upon such orderly variation as  the prosodically-motivated stress-patterns  “ber-LIN” versus “BER-lin WALL” (cf. “no-BEL” versus “NO-bel PRIZE”).   Whereas on that night, concerning words like Allied which everyone had heard and spoken thousands of times  since the war began (and which had thus had ample time to settle into some agreed-upon stress-pattern), enunciation was all over the map.
I won’t even bother to mention cases of DUM-da DUM, where the “DUM-da” might arise for either of two reasons (lexcially inherent, versus prosodically contextual stress),  but only those in which the variant selected  ran straight in the face of prosodic considerations. 
Thus:   The CBS anchor (Robert Trout) repeatedly used patterns like “Al-LIED HEADquarters”.  By contrast, the NBC anchor said things like “AL-lied confirMAtion”;  and yet a subordinate, so far from imitating the boss, said “the Al-LIED FORCE” and “Al-LIED PARachute troops”;  and even “the Al-LIES”.

(b)  I recall wincing, some years ago, at the invariable rendition of a certain quarterback’s surname as “Brett FARVE” (spelled Favre).  The renditions of “Le Havre” on that day in June of 1944, were three:

(i) A quite creditable approximation of the French:  HAH-vruh
(ii)  HARVE, like the quarterback.
(iii) A sort of compromize approximation of the two,   HAHV,  which is what the British pronunciation would be for a word spelled Harve.

Well.  Enough of such trivia.  God rest all those who fought and died there that day.

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