Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Watching last night's Colbert Report (no [t]s in there) rerun tonight. In his despair over the stock market plunge yesterday, he urged himself to 'get it together, Colbert; you need this job now', or words to that effect. The Missus points out that he said it with a [t] at the end, and with initial stress. Now, there's a little slip-up.


Ben Zimmer said...

Yes, I've noticed him use the -t pronunciation in relatively unguarded moments, usually in self-address. Here's what he had to say about the pronunciation of his name in a Rolling Stone interview:

Was your name always pronounced Col-bear?

COLBERT: No. My father always wanted to be Col-bear. He lived in the same town as his father, and his father didn't like the idea of the name with the French pronunciation. So my father said to us, "Do what you want. You're not going to offend anybody." And he was dead long before I made my decision. I was flying up to theater school at Northwestern, and I sat next to an astronaut, actually. And I told him I was going off to a new school. I was transferring to Northwestern and I didn't know anyone in Chicago. He said, "Oh, wow, you could really reinvent yourself out there." When the plane took off I was Col-bert, and when the plane landed I was Col-bear.

Mr. Verb said...

Wonderful. I've noticed numerous other people varying in the pronunciation of their own last names over time, albeit never so consciously. I suppose it's a minor parallel to the cases of people who change their last names, often to reclaim earlier (e.g. pre-Ellis Island) forms.

How come the NYT doesn't hire somebody like you to write On Language? I mean, you, like, actually know stuff about contemporary American English.

Anonymous said...

They don't call that paper the Gray Lady for nothing.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I've noticed him do that before - it's usually when he's talking to himself in that kind of moment. He also changes the stress (COL-burt instead of col-BEAR). I've always thought of it as his "breaking character" a moment - like reminding himself that he needs the job of being Col-bear. Perhaps it's not, though - perhaps it's a genuine slip.