What the Comptroller Kerfuffle Says About the Divide with Elites
Either it was a slow news day, or we apparently kicked up a hornet’s nest with our critique of Senator Jim Rosapepe’s incorrect pronunciation of the office of Comptroller.
This discussion began last night on Red Maryland Radio, where we discussed Rosapepe’s error toward the end of the show:
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Anybody who has been in Maryland for years nows that the Office of the Comptroller of Maryland is pronounced “Comp-troller.” This isn’t news to anybody. This isn’t something that somebody decided yesterday. This isn’t something that just recently changed and Jim Rosapepe just didn’t get the memo about. This is the way it’s always been. Governors have pronounced it this way. Senators have pronounced it this way.
Louis Goldstein, who was Comptroller so long he practically was the Office of Comptroller, pronounced it this way.
Here’s also how current Comptroller Peter Franchot, the current occupant of the office, pronounces it:
Bottom line: Jim Rosapepe said the name of the office of Comptroller incorrectly. On camera. Twice.
Needless to say, we had no idea that there would be such a firestorm on Twitter about the subject, ensnaring the Baltimore media, Washinton Media, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, and yes Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Uhm, there’s a lot of people in Maryland state government – including at high levels with lots of longevity – who pronounce it as it is spelled.
— Erin Cox (@ErinatThePost) October 4, 2019
In the middle here? I got elected Comptroller of my college student govt, where we also pronounced the “mp.” I knew then it was unconventional, but I just went with it. Moved to MD, saw we apparently do the same here, just went with it. Neither side merits derision, I’d say.
— Michael Sanderson (@msanderson_MACo) October 4, 2019
— Boyd Rutherford (@BoydKRutherford) October 4, 2019
— Comptroller Peter Franchot (@peterfranchot) October 4, 2019
And then John McIntryre, the “Mild-mannered content editor” of the Baltimore Sun decided that anybody who pronounces it the way Marylanders have always pronounced it is “semiliterate”.
Garner’s Modern English Usage: “The word is pronounced … the same as ‘controller. Sounding the ‘p’ has traditionally been viewed as semiliterate.”
— John McIntyre (@johnemcintyre) October 4, 2019
Literally what just happened here? Here we have an instance where Maryland English differs from the Queen’s English. People in Maryland, elected officials, literally everybody pronounces it as Comptroller and not “Controller”. Much in the same way we say Towson “Tao-son” instead of “Toe-son”, as we say Riviera Beach “Riv-ear-a Beach” and not “Riv-e-era Beach” and how we say Bowie “Boo-ee” instead of “Bow-ee.”
It’s the regional dialect. It’s how we talk. This is how we do it. This isn’t a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans have said it the same way forever. And somebody who has been in public office for over three decades like Jim Rosapepe should know that.
The difference between the “correct” pronunciation and the popular politics of pronunciation is really what’s show hearing. We see how elitist Jim Rosapepe is by insisting on this “correct” pronunciation. And we saw, with John McIntyre’s tweet calling you and I “semliterate”, how quite a few members of the media see Marylanders who speak in our local vernacular. They see normal people as less than. And it all stinks, seeing how deep the chasm between elites like Rosapepe and McIntyre and the rest of us normal people is.
The bottom line is this: Jim Rosapepe mispronounced the office of Comptroller. No whining, no links, no insults from the peanut gallery will change that.