…By Any Other Name

I suppose I shouldn’t make anything of it but I just can’t help myself. Humana health care is running an ad campaign that tries to attract former military people. During their commercial, they say the word ‘veterans’ about 30 times. And they say it wrong. We are veh-ter-ans, not veh-trins. You would think that if a company like Humana wanted to attract us, they’d have the courtesy to pronounce the name of our niche correctly. The advertisement was a minute long, but I was so irritated by their overly repeated mispronunciation that I changed the channel. It’s not that big a deal and most likely zillions of people find their pronunciation even cute or folksy. But it annoys me like fingernails on a blackboard.

As I said, I guess it’s not that big a deal. But they can’t claim that I’m listening to accent, because I have heard most every American dialect pronounce the word and not one of them turned the three syllable word into two. I expect if they’re so lazy as to leave out a syllable, what will they leave out of their services? I suspect the services will leave a lot of things out, but billing won’t be one of them. I’ll bet you they know how to pronounce dah-lerz just fine.

There are times that drawls or conjugations are appropriate; sometimes even cute or identifying. But this isn’t one of them. When I went to college to learn about advertising, the one thing they always hammered in was “Get the target’s name right.” But I also note that a tremendous amount of advertising leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to what is called “quality and continuity.” That’s the media version of quality control, making sure that everything is just so and perfectly tailored to have the best effect. If Humana used any kind of focus group or oversight for this commercial, they probably bought it from a discount third party provider located in India, where their customer service agents are likely located. God knows, if they’re this bad before the sale, their concern for customer feelings must be tragically without empathy after the sale.

It’s almost funny, in a way. I can’t help but think of signs in foreign countries that try to use English. There are websites dedicated to the way our language is convoluted into either funny or undecipherable meaning. No doubt out English to Whatever disctionaries give pause to the countries we visit as well. But it gets pretty depressing when an American company screws up an American segmnent of high tradition so ignorantly. I would be very surprised to find that the actor in the Humana commercial was a vetrin.

Then again, I take issue with a lot of the promotional crap that oozes from our televisions, screeches from our radios and slimes its way out of printer material. I despise Dragon Naturally Speaking commercials because their product demonstration is so contrived and false it raises my blood pressure into the stroke zone. I’m also irritated by all of the Valentine’s Day commercials which blatantly promise sexual favors if you give your one and only whatever it is they’re selling. It causes me to imagine a scenario where hubby comes in the door, tosses a trinket at his wife and tells her to get on her knees. When viewed the other way around, I wonder what occupation wifey spends her day performing while the husband is at work; on TV they appear to be quite used to laying down for profit. Sorry for the imagery, but even I, a member of irreverent society, have my limits.

I guess I’m just the kind of person who doesn’t think we need to profess ignorance and mediocrity as things to be aspired to. I’m a veteran of foreign wars, not a vetrin of fern whores. As such, it causes me grief to see my social status denigrated by those without the courtesy and respect to pronounce it correctly. The thing is, my name is one of those that’s easy to screw up. Most often it gets warped into Fitzpatrick, but I’ve even had it morphed into Fitzhugh. I smile when it happens and explain that my name is Kirkpatrick, and that’s Kirk, Pat and Rick all stuck together. That seems to get me a returned smile and having my name recalled properly. But I can’t grab the guy on my television screen spewing vetrins faster than the depleted uranium rounds from a 20 millimeter Vulcan cannon and let him know that he’s getting it wrong. So I understand that this guy is going to be a role model of at least some stature, because that’s the way of television. How many people will pick up his creepy pronunciation and pass it along?

Much like the folks over at Dragon, the people at Humana may as well save themselves some money and stop sending me their printed advertisements or wasting their click through dollars on websites they track me on. Because I would sooner experience peripheral neuropathy than be their client. I’m probably only the slightest minority of their target audience and not worth considering, but then, I guess that’s also my complaint. So it works out evenly I suppose; they don’t care about me and the feeling is quite mutual.