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Words Dec. 29

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“Gov. Mike Huckabee will be available to members of the media today to answer questions concerning the Supreme Court ruling on Lakeview. The availability will be in the Governor’s Reception Room at the capitol at 2:00 p.m.”

Gwen Moritz asks, “Is this an accepted use of the word availability? The definition I saw said availability was the quality or state of being available. ‘Making a key lime pie depends on the availability of key limes.’ An event doesn’t seem to be ‘a quality or state.’ ”

I can’t say that it’s incorrect, but this use of availability sounds funny. It appears to be media/political jargon, though not the sort of media jargon familiar to old-fashioned print journalists like me. The governor’s press secretary, who sent out the notice, is a product of the electronic end of the business. Max Brantley thinks that media availability probably originated at the White House level and has seeped down to state capitols, particularly those that house someone who aspires to the White House. Awhile back, the governor’s press secretary announced a “briefing” for the media. That turned out to mean that the press secretary, not the governor, made herself available to answer questions from reporters. This is common in Washington, but not in Little Rock. Reporters accustomed to addressing the governor directly were unimpressed.



Amy Steele writes:

“A friend and I disagree on the pronunciation of the. I was always told that pronouncing the as thu (that is, rhyming it with duh) was acceptable. My friend says the only correct way to pronounce the is with a long e (rhymes with me), and thu is just laziness.”

Random House says the pronunciation of the changes, “primarily depending on whether the following sound is a consonant or a vowel.” Before a consonant sound, the pronunciation is thu: thu book, thu mountain, thu Bears. Before a vowel sound, the is usually pronounced with a long e: the apple, the end.

Not many people are aware of that rule, and fewer follow it rigidly. Most people don’t even notice how they and others are pronouncing the. Amy Steele’s friend must be particularly observant, or particularly critical.




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