The above clip shows Sen. Christopher Murphy on the floor of the Senate debating intervention in Ukraine, mispronouncing the name of the capital city of Kiev.
You know, I wouldn’t mention this if it wasn’t the second time I’ve witnessed an elected official cluelessly mangle the simple pronunciation of the same critically important city in Europe. And given that this week’s events have turned Kiev a potential tinderbox for a monumentally ugly war between pro- and anti-Russian Ukrainians (to say nothing of a possible NATO throwdown), don’t you think it’s worth a review of how to pronounce the name of the place? If for no other reason so that we don’t sound like complete bumpkins when we discuss the handbasket in which we are heading merrily to hell?
This time around, (I’ll mention the other time in a minute) the pronunciation offender is Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT). A far less reactionary and bloodthirsty type than his predecessor Joe Lieberman, Murphy nonetheless did little today to counter the image of the untraveled dullard the rest of the world fairly projects onto Americans. During Senate debate on intervention, he pretty much announced that he doesn’t get out much:
Senator, the capital of Ukraine is Kiev, which is pronounced exactly how it looks if you’ve actually read or heard Slavic, Ukrainian or Russian names.
It sounds like this: key-EV. Say it. It’s easy.
It does not rhyme with “beave” or “Steve”.
Why this name is difficult for our elected officials to master, I cannot imagine, but it is. I first learned how difficult while attending a 2010 event at Chicago’s Chopin Theatre held to showcase potential candidates for Mayor of Chicago. In attendance was Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL). The stentorian-voiced Congressman Davis had considered a run for Mayor for a mere 72 hours — just about long enough to enjoy the buffet at the event. In particular, borscht served that night reminded him, he said, of a recent trip to Kiev, a trip he described in loving detail..
Only he didn’t pronounce it key-EV. He pronounced it kive. Rhyming with chive or clive.
If you’ve ever heard Danny Davis speak, then you know he has what radio and voiceover professionals call pipes. His voice is a James Earl Jones-caliber vessel of pure gravitas. You just don’t care what he mispronounces when he uses that voice.
But today might lead to a vote on sending US carriers into the Black Sea or drones to Poland or god knows what else Lindsey Graham is howling for from his plastic army man play table. This is important. And Chris Murphy’s no Danny Davis.