I have more or less stopped listening to interviews on public radio. Either the guests have become more pretentious than they used to be or I’ve become less tolerant of it. Probably it is both. Last week I had a fairly long drive ahead of me, so I thought I’d give it another try. When a good guest is being interviewed by a competent host (e.g., Terry Gross), public radio can be the next best thing to a baseball game or books-on-tape for passing the time. I do enjoy driving and listening to public radio on Friday afternoons, because rarely are the guests on Science Friday pretentious. If anything, they simplify their language so the rest of us understand what they are talking about. 

I’d just pulled onto the interstate north of La Crosse when I turned the radio dial to 90.3. The first words spoken were,“Therefore it behooves us…” I switched back to one of my oldies stations before I could even learn what it was that was behooving me.  

I don’t like the word “behooves,” partly because it is telling me that there is a certain way I ought to be thinking. I also don’t like it when an interviewer “resonates” with a comment made by the guest. I imagine him or her sitting in a chair and vibrating like a tuning fork. I especially don’t like it when an interviewer “resonates” midway through a “deep dive.” That sounds dangerous. My least favorite word on public radio is “frankly.” Every time a guest, usually a politician, uses the word, I hear it as an admission that everything said up to that point has been hyperbole, but now the person is gearing up to provide a nugget of truth. Any public figure with an army of PR advisors should be told to knock it off. Frankly, the last person to use “frankly” in a meaningful way was Rhett Butler. 

I hope that complaining about the use of pretentious language is not, in itself, pretentious. It may be curmudgeonly, and it definitely is arrogant, but those two adjectives accurately describe two aspects of my personality. Just so I’m not being pretentious.

Steven Simpson