Don Lemon is the anchor America deserves
April 21, 2015 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Taffy Brodesser-Akner interviews Don Lemon for GQ. The results are amazing.

"Or we can leave room for the possibility that he is just plain wrong. This is Don Lemon, after all, the news anchor whose name has become associated with what might politely be called missteps, like asking an Islamic scholar if he supports the terrorist group ISIS, or declaring on the scene at Ferguson that there's the smell of marijuana in the air, "obviously." This is the guy who asked if a black hole could be responsible for the disappearance of Flight MH370; who asked one of Bill Cosby's alleged rape victims why she didn't stop the attack by, as he put it, "the using of the teeth."


Yes, we have to allow for the possibility that Don Lemon might be wrong.


And yet, and yet: When Don Lemon says this to me, I am sure that he is sure of it. And who can we turn to if not our news anchors?"
posted by lattiboy (95 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
They're both wrong. It's sohr-bet-tee.
posted by vverse23 at 11:41 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don Lemon is the anchor America deserves

America did something really bad.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on April 21, 2015 [44 favorites]


"It's the mantra of all of CNN: Keep going, keep talking. People don't walk out on conversations."
*changes the channel*
posted by Fizz at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks to Jon Stewart, whenever we catch Don Lemon on air, we say "It's time for Don Lemon's Zesty News Bowl!"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:49 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have pretty much shut cable news out of my life entirely, with the exception of an occasional podcast of Rachel Maddow if there's big political news. If the evening news is turned on at all, like when folding laundry, it's on BBC or Al Jazeera.

You know that scene at the end of "They Live" where Roddy Piper shoots the TV broadcast beam machine just before he dies and everyone wakes up and finds themselves surrounded by (or memorably in bed with) gruesome metallic aliens?

It's true.
posted by spitbull at 11:52 AM on April 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


When I ask Lemon about his interview with the alleged Cosby victim and why he asked about the "usage of the teeth," he gives me a long answer about how the incident started a conversation about sex abuse. But it didn't do that, I tell him—it started a conversation about people who say the wrong thing to victims of sexual abuse. And shouldn't he have known better? After all, he was a victim, too. He smiles and shrugs and eats his food. Later, after dessert, I ask him again, and finally I get the real answer: Lemon tells me that when he was a child and was being forced to perform oral sex on his abuser, he told that fucker that the next time, he'd bite his dick off, and that's when Don Lemon stopped getting molested.
Jesus Christ, I was expecting that paragraph to end quite differently, with Don Lemon just being an insensitive asshole and this is ... not that. I mean he was at no point even remotely in the territory of 'acceptable statement' with that remark and yet considering that his veracity is not one of the things up for grabs, there's just something chilling about the impetus for his question going from a simple "TV idiot makes awful, inflammatory remark" to, well, that.
posted by griphus at 11:53 AM on April 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


Wow. Don Lemon is a lot older than I thought he was.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:54 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


When life deals you Don Lemon, make lemonade! Then turn off your TV and just drink lemonade until you throw up.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:55 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wait, Don Lemon isn't a fictional character on The Daily Show?
posted by unmake at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Lemon Harangue
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:01 PM on April 21, 2015


“Let me put it this way,” says Jeff Zucker. “There’s certainly a lot of interest in Don Lemon, and that’s a good thing for Don and for CNN. You know, Don is a little bit of a lightning rod. Frankly, we needed a little bit of lightning.”

Or news. News is good, too. Focus on news. It's right there in your name. Cee-Enn-Enn. One of the Ns stands for news. Cable News Network. If it was the Cable Lightning Network, you definitely should have lightning, no argument here. But it's not. It's news. News.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:02 PM on April 21, 2015 [51 favorites]


My only contact with Don Lemon is via Daily Show bits or from people posting his latest gaffe on Facebook, but up until now I had no idea that he was openly gay. I suppose that counts as progress: He's a gay black man who is the subject of ridicule solely because of his glaring incompetence, and not for his race or sexuality.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:13 PM on April 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


Also, he's from the heart of Cajun country and doesn't know how to pronounce "sorbet"? How in the hell?
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:15 PM on April 21, 2015


Before opening this post I'd confused Don Lemon with Don Cherry, and I thought "yeah, I bet that's a pretty fantastic interview, but it's weird to call him an American anchor."
posted by penduluum at 12:15 PM on April 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Wow. Don Lemon is a lot older than I thought he was.

Not in a million years would I have said he was 49 and certainly not old enough to have ever voted for Reagan!
posted by gladly at 12:21 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


penduluum: "Before opening this post I'd confused Don Lemon with Don Cherry,"

Don Lemoncherry would be the best TV personality in the history of ever.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I read the sorbet thing as him trying to extrapolate from one bit of knowledge -- like the pronounciation of "forte" -- into another sphere, only without the critical thinking to ask whether that was correct.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2015


I've never heard of him before reading this interview. For a talking head, he didn't seem that bad. It's just the same old internet mob mentality finding a target for ridicule. But then I will always remember cringing while watching Diane Sawyer tell Alice Walker that she didn't see her as a black person, so there's that.
posted by smidgen at 12:38 PM on April 21, 2015


Oh, you didn't see his Ferguson coverage then?
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on April 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


trying to extrapolate from one bit of knowledge -- like the pronounciation of "forte"

...which is a funny example since there are two pronunciations of "forte" (one-syllable for the noun meaning strength, two-syllable for the adjective meaning loud).
posted by psoas at 12:43 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


No, I don't think live news of any stripe is particularly informative -- it's voyeurism mostly.
posted by smidgen at 12:45 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's something about Don Lemon I really like. I think it's because he's not barking at me like most other anchors. And his incompetence seems endearing and nonbelligerent -- more Barney Fife than Sarah Palin, if you will.
posted by Slothrup at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've always gotten the impression that Lemon was actually a pretty decent guy who has the misfortune of working in a staggeringly incompetent news organization.

The fact that he doesn't leave is obviously damning, but I don't think that it's fair to pin all of CNN's failings on the guy reading the teleprompter.
posted by schmod at 12:48 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm sick of the ridicule machine. It's ugliness deployed as a corrective, and it's fucking nauseating.
posted by echocollate at 12:53 PM on April 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


How can I explain something I know nothing about? I'm not cable news.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:56 PM on April 21, 2015


smidgen: It's just the same old internet mob mentality finding a target for ridicule.



Until I read this thread I actually hadn't a clue that Don Lemon's gaffes were an internet thing.

To me he was the CNN anchor who I once saw inexplicably making an idiot of himself. The broadcast had just finished with some item about a fox on a golf course, and Lemon bantered to a female journalist on screen: "talking of foxes, you are looking very foxy tonight…".

To the best of my recollection, the female journalist covered her irritation/surprise at the foxy crack rather smoothly. (I thought his comment was atrocious. But I managed to get over it!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:03 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


But look at the pictures of Lemon next to that llama. They're irresistible, both of them staring at the camera, both of them expressionless.

There's an incompetent journalist here. And a llama. And Don Lemon.

(There's more expression on those two faces than you'll see all day on the rest of CNN)
posted by chavenet at 1:15 PM on April 21, 2015


Oh god of course he's from Baton Rouge
posted by eustatic at 1:16 PM on April 21, 2015


I'd forgotten that he'd gotten himself in hot water over that little list addressed to the black community. I wonder if he's gotten more attention for his gaffes because he's a conservative (the usual target for Daily Show, etc).
posted by theorique at 1:21 PM on April 21, 2015


don was appropriately named at birth,taking the family name that would describe his future work at CNN.
posted by Postroad at 1:22 PM on April 21, 2015


I thought he was Liz Lemon's dad.
posted by maryr at 1:22 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


"usage of the teeth"

I think that is something you discuss with your kids before anything happens to them.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:32 PM on April 21, 2015


If it was the Cable Lightning Network, you definitely should have lightning, no argument here. But it's not. It's news. News.

Not enough favorites in the world, CPB.
posted by The Bellman at 1:33 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh god of course he's from Baton Rouge

Ugh. I went to Baton Rouge for a job interview once. Medieval Culture Department of the college. I was disgusted by the head of the department. Somebody stole my lumberjack jacket there -- one of my few creature comforts! And then that hideous ride on the sceniccruiser all the way home. I was so sick I made the driver travel below the minimum speed limit. I spent the whole ride terrified the passengers were going to attack me -- they were furious -- and that Baton Rouge residents were going to toss bombs at the bus, which they see as a representation of progress, which they despise.

Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I was strapped to her wheel!
posted by maxsparber at 1:35 PM on April 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.
posted by St. Hubbins at 1:47 PM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not in a million years would I have said he was 49 and certainly not old enough to have ever voted for Reagan!

That is a difference of one year.
posted by phearlez at 1:58 PM on April 21, 2015


According to Merriam-Webster there are two pronunciations of 'sorbet', sȯr-ˈbā and ˈsȯr-bət.
posted by Kattullus at 2:11 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pronouncing it as 'sor-bet' sounds like something that super blue-blooded south English RP speakers would do, like how in Downton Abbey they call the valet the 'val-et'.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:17 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's pronounced "sher-bert."
posted by griphus at 2:25 PM on April 21, 2015 [23 favorites]


"Don Lemon is the anchor America deserves"?

Right, because what could be a greater indictment of America, and the depths to which it has sunk, that one of it's most popular and successful news anchors is a good looking black, gay man?

Sure, he's said some stupid things. But he's said fewer stupid/insulting things in his entire career than, say, Wolf Blitzer or your average Fox anchor any given week. But hey, who can stay mad at pretty blonde news models, amirite!

And in the final paragraph we learn that many of these gaffes aren't so bad in context.

Also, Don Lemon is correct about the pronunciation of sorbet (click to hear the pronunciation). Or at least, some dictionaries prefer "-bet" to "-bay."

I know, I know. Hard to believe that a 49 year old news anchor would have a better grasp on correct pronunciation than some random waiter.

-- Wait, no --

Why would someone expect a nameless waiter to have a better grasp on pronunciation than a news anchor?

I'm sure there are perfectly plausible post hac rationalizations for the condescension that has nothing to do with race. But it's hard to ignore the possibility entirely, when the article reminds us that Lemon was criticized for comments about racism in America.

It would almost seem that Don Lemon is too white to be allowed an opinion on being black, and too black to be given the full respect otherwise granted to similarly situated (white) professionals.

But hey, at least he's not a woman having to answer a bunch of inane questions about kids and clothing. So there's that. (Edit: Scratch that, I forgot this was GQ)
posted by Davenhill at 2:26 PM on April 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Why would someone expect a nameless waiter to have a better grasp on pronunciation than a news anchor?


Because a waiter is expected to be familiar with the restaurant's menu to properly do his job?
Multiple valid pronunciations of sorbet aside, if the waiter really was pronouncing something on the menu wrong, it'd be like Don Lemon mispronouncing "camera" or another word of his trade.
posted by mikeh at 2:32 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


if God gives you a lemon, make a Cnn anchor
posted by Postroad at 2:42 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


It would hardly be the first time I've hear a wait-person pronounce something totally wrong. And I rarely correct it - certainly not in front of strangers. One doesn't want to humiliate someone who barely earns a living and is struggling to please because of tips...
posted by mumimor at 2:47 PM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Because a waiter is expected to be familiar with the restaurant's menu to properly do his job? Multiple valid pronunciations of sorbet aside, if the waiter really was pronouncing something on the menu wrong, it'd be like Don Lemon mispronouncing "camera" or another word of his trade.
I stand corrected. So the stoned wage slaves at Taco Bell are presumptively more knowledgeable about the pronunciation of common food items than news anchors, and by extrapolation everybody south of the Rio Grande is mispronouncing 'burrito' with a rolled 'r.'

Also, apparently there's a guy in England famous for baked chicken, by the name of Herb.
posted by Davenhill at 2:56 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the idea of this interview taking place in a Taco Bell
posted by griphus at 3:06 PM on April 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


"Why would someone expect a nameless waiter to have a better grasp on pronunciation than a news anchor?"

Thirty years ago, when I waited tables at a restaurant where we served a small sorbet before the main course, I regularly earned more than $200 a night and you better fucking believe that I was expected to correctly pronounce every item on our menu and the management and the chef de cuisine would regularly ensure this was the case.

So, yeah, I would expect a nameless waiter to have a better grasp on this particular pronunciation than Don Lemon.

Maybe you should try eating somewhere other than Olive Garden.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:08 PM on April 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


I've never met a nameless waiter. I'd expect them to have pretty interesting super-powers, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:12 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


They serve sorbet at Taco Bell?
posted by chavenet at 3:13 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Only for Fourthmeal
posted by griphus at 3:15 PM on April 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


So Don Lemon is the 21st Century's answer to Ted Baxter?
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:20 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd still rather tolerate Don Lemon than one minute from that rah-rah-let's-invade-Iraq pencil dick Wolf Blitzer. There's making gaffes and then there's getting an erection lasting the entire Bush administration without consulting with Sanjay Gupta.
posted by Ber at 3:38 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or news. News is good, too. Focus on news. It's right there in your name. Cee-Enn-Enn. One of the Ns stands for news. Cable News Network. If it was the Cable Lightning Network, you definitely should have lightning, no argument here. But it's not. It's news. News.

See also: Emm-Tee-Vee (no kidding, the M is for music).
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:46 PM on April 21, 2015


The fact that this sprawling profile has been reduced to one MeFite desperately trying to justify Don Lemon not pronouncing "sorbet" like most people know it to be pronounced is just so fucking Metafilter.

Davenhill: your amazingly condescending "defense" of Lemon is spiraling into a wildly offensive broadside at waiters.
posted by lattiboy at 3:53 PM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: just so fucking Metafilter.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:55 PM on April 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


...which is a funny example since there are two pronunciations of "forte" (one-syllable for the noun meaning strength, two-syllable for the adjective meaning loud).

Yeah, and that's my point -- someone corrected Lemon on "for-tay" vs. "fort" and then he went:

"Oh, if it's "fort," then that means any Frenchy word that looks like they end with -ay actually end with -et or -at or -ert. Everyone is wrong but I am right! Wait till I show those fuckers. I'LL SHOW THEM ALL. THEY WILL RUE THE DAY..."

Seriously, he learns one thing, extrapolates it elsewhere and starts to use it as a bludgeon.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:59 PM on April 21, 2015


Just don't ask a British person to pronounce filet.
posted by schmod at 4:02 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or news. News is good, too. Focus on news. It's right there in your name. Cee-Enn-Enn. One of the Ns stands for news. Cable News Network. If it was the Cable Lightning Network, you definitely should have lightning, no argument here. But it's not. It's news. News.

Except editors and producers do not want news because they think it is boring. They want to glam it up in the worst way and that's how they do it -- in the worst way.

When I was a freelance journalist, I got into frequent trouble because I had so many facts in my stories -- and kept my opinions to myself, wanting readers to come to their own conclusions. I was given lip: where was the colour, the anecdotes, and the voice? I said my voice is truth, and I was told I was dry, and then I said I was realistic. Big difference.

Many fights, but I won those battles, but it's gotten worse: they are looking for presence, not conscience. If you are silly enough to fight for truth, it will drain you dry, but if you willing to ham it up, that crumbling world is your oyster, until someone else upstages you...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:07 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


schmod -
filet "fee-lay"
fillet "fillet"

do I win a seegar?
posted by aesop at 4:46 PM on April 21, 2015


Ivan Fyodorovich: Thirty years ago, when I waited tables at a restaurant where we served a small sorbet before the main course, I regularly earned more than $200 a night and you better fucking believe that I was expected to correctly pronounce every item on our menu and the management and the chef de cuisine would regularly ensure this was the case.

So, yeah, I would expect a nameless waiter to have a better grasp on this particular pronunciation than Don Lemon.

Maybe you should try eating somewhere other than Olive Garden.
I believe you. But this hardly seems typical for your average waiter. And profanity and insults aside, how many of these words did you personally look up?

This isn't the 1980s. We needn't rely on kitchen plebiscites as the exclusive and final authority on word pronunciation. A second on an iPhone would have shown that the waiter and chef de cuisine were no more than arbitrarily right or wrong, as both pronunciations are accepted.

And no, the point isn't the pronunciation, or how well your average waiter pronounces menu items, but rather that such a flimsy and false premise was used to belittle Don Lemon, and at such length:
the waiter looks at Lemon like, Are you joking? I give the waiter the silent, wide-eyed micro head shake—No, he's serious, proceed with caution—but the waiter has guts that I don't, and so he says, "It's sor-bay, sir."

Because of course it's sor-bay. I am shaken from my stupor and remember that yes, for sure, absolutely, it is sor-bay. I am right. The man sitting across from me, smiling and confident—he is not right.
Don Lemon may not be Walter Cronkite, but the title of the piece ("Don Lemon Is the Anchor America Deserves") seems better suited for someone like Glenn Beck.

From the title, hints of Uncle Tom-ism, right down to burying the proper context for the alleged gaffes in the final paragraph, this was a lazy and unfair hit piece.

But I liked the picture of him with the llama. (Hopefully that doesn't start showing up on any menus) :)
posted by Davenhill at 5:26 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


An amazingly good piece of writing, hilarious and humane and self-aware, that left me thinking much more highly of its subject even as it diagnosed something pretty bad about the news culture that produced him. Thanks for the post.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Who seriously cares about how Don Lemon pronounces "sorbet"? I mean, is this an issue someone should think reflects on someone's aptitudes, abilities, or respectability?

For reference, I pronounce it "sherbet." I don't care if that could be technically something different.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:49 PM on April 21, 2015


I mean, is this an issue someone should think reflects on someone's aptitudes, abilities, or respectability?

No, it's a scene in a profile. The point is pretty obviously the certainty with which he asserts a wrong (or at best disputable) fact, and the nonchalance with which he moves on from it when corrected. These kinds of little things reveal character! But if you think the author is laughing derisively at Lemon I think you've missed the point.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:36 PM on April 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sorbet and sherbet are completely different things you cretinnnnnn
posted by St. Hubbins at 6:38 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did somebody say Wolf Blitzer?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:17 PM on April 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Did somebody say Wolf Blitzer?

That made my week.

Maybe you should try eating somewhere other than Olive Garden.

Maybe you should try being a decent human being instead of a classist lemon.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:33 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


lattiboy: your amazingly condescending "defense" of Lemon is spiraling into a wildly offensive broadside at waiters.
FWIW, that was certainly not my intent. The crack about Taco Bell was meant as humorous reductio ad absurdum in lieu of explicatio ad nauseam.

However I concede the possibility that some MeFites may live in a Demolition Man alternate universe where all restaurants, including the fancy ones, are owned by Taco Bell and employ semi-omniscient Jeeves-like waitstaff.

But in Los Angeles, waiters tend to be normal people doing a difficult job for too little money and even less appreciation. They vary in age, education, accent, and English fluency.

The funny thing about normal people, though - half of them are below average intelligence. I'm not really sure why it's controversial, yet alone offensive, to give the benefit of doubt on pronunciation to someone whose professional career depends on superior elocution and pronunciation.

Or is Metafilter some kind of militant Lake Wobegon?

But if he doesn't deserve the benefit of a doubt, he at least the benefit of a fact-check before belittling him for such petty and misleading reasons.
posted by Davenhill at 8:20 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The funny thing about normal people, though - half of them are below average intelligence. I'm not really sure why it's controversial, yet alone offensive, to give the benefit of doubt on pronunciation to someone whose professional career depends on superior elocution and pronunciation."

It's generally only going to be the very fine-dining restaurants that serve sorbet, and part of that professional environment -- which is very much a function of customer expectations -- is that the servers correctly pronounce menu items and such. That is a core part of the job. My Olive Garden swipe was aimed at the fact that you don't know this; that you apparently believe that a "nameless waiter" is someone who is low-skill and low-knowledge who wouldn't be expected to correctly pronounce menu items and nomenclature that is traditionally very French-influenced. That's the part that was insulting to an entire category of highly-skilled workers -- you have no clue that they're actually highly-skilled.

And while it's somewhat true that television newscasters are expected to have "superior elocution and pronunciation", it's not remotely as true as it was in the days of the mid-atlantic media standard and, regardless, this certainly does not mean that individual television personalities are any more informed on culturally-specific pronunciation and subcultural terms-of-art than anyone else.

You mention that the pronunciation of sorbet is not universal and of course it's not. However, you presume wrongly that there's some authority which determines this for all usages and that newscasters would be familiar with this. But these usages and pronunciations are specific to context. Is the entrée the main course? Not outside North America. Not even in some American restaurants. But in general American usage, it is. There is no universally "correct" pronunciation of sorbet, but there is a correct pronunciation of it within American fine-dining culture, and an American waitperson is precisely the kind of person who can be relied upon to know what it is. There is also a general French pronunciation, as well as regional variants around the world where this food is known by that name. An American waitperson isn't an authority on those usages, but neither is an American newscaster.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:05 PM on April 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


People, people -- how does Brian Williams pronounce sorbet?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:25 PM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


CNN had installed its CNN-iest talent to anchor an hour of television that came to embody all the things that people loathe about CNN—the empty news-like product

I feel like there is a lesson about sympathize vs empathize here. I do neither.
posted by J.W. at 9:42 PM on April 21, 2015


I've met a nameless waiter. Been through the valley on one.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:46 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I stand corrected. So the stoned wage slaves at Taco Bell are presumptively more knowledgeable about the pronunciation of common food items than news anchors, and by extrapolation everybody south of the Rio Grande is mispronouncing 'burrito' with a rolled 'r.'

You stand on a straw mountain of exaggerated nonsense. This was a motherfucking sit down restaurant, not Taco Bell, and yes, the waiter pronounced it correctly.
posted by aydeejones at 10:10 PM on April 21, 2015


And it's only a hit piece of you're one of those stoned Taco Bell workers and just "hit the piece" if you know what I mean -- it starts out rough but ends totally nuanced and sympathetic so DON LEMON REVEAL THYSELF
posted by aydeejones at 10:13 PM on April 21, 2015


(Also, a lot of Taco Bell workers aren't stoned white boys who do pronounce burrito just fine, maybe get out of whitebread county or whatever)
posted by aydeejones at 10:13 PM on April 21, 2015


This is the way the world ends
With a bang (but it's pronounced whimper)
posted by fullerine at 2:44 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: you apparently believe that a "nameless waiter" is someone who is low-skill and low-knowledge who wouldn't be expected to correctly pronounce menu items and nomenclature that is traditionally very French-influenced. That's the part that was insulting to an entire category of highly-skilled workers -- you have no clue that they're actually highly-skilled.
You're inferring too much, including phantom slights I did not make and do not believe. Of course there are extremely skilled and knowledgeable waiters.

Yes, a waiter's skill and professionalism speaks to the likelihood they will know the commonly accepted pronunciation of menu items.

But that skill/knowledge doesn't necessarily speak to whether that commonly accepted pronunciation is correct to the exclusion of others, be it sorbet at fancy restaurants or burritos at Taco Bell.

You yourself make a similar point:
You mention that the pronunciation of sorbet is not universal and of course it's not. However, you presume wrongly that there's some authority which determines this for all usages and that newscasters would be familiar with this. [...] An American waitperson isn't an authority on those usages, but neither is an American newscaster.
I presume a dictionary is a determining authority and that a successful news anchor like Lemon would use one far more often than most people, waiters included. That's pretty much the extent of my point, no insults to waiters intended.

Had either the reporter or the waiter at this elite, sorbet-serving French restaurant bothered to look the word up, they would have known Lemon's pronunciation was acceptable and even preferred by some dictionaries.

Maybe Lemon didn't respond, when "corrected" by the high-skilled and high-knowledge waiter, because he's smarter than all of us -- well, me anyway -- and wisely chose to avoid this entire digression. :)
posted by Davenhill at 3:09 AM on April 22, 2015


Ah yes, highly skilled professional waiters in fact DO often have PhDs in English or Comp Lit these days. It's a known career path for a prolix humanist, and I personally would accept pronunciation tips from said waiter as long as I didn't have to read his/her screenplay like in the old days.

In fact, if you're ready to take my order, I'll have the foie gras avec une side of Deleuze (rhymes with delicious!) and a soupçon of Guattari (rhymes with Sorry!).
posted by spitbull at 3:34 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought he was Liz Lemon's dad.

Liz Lemon's dad is named Richard. As in, "It wouldn't be a Lemon party without old Dick!"

(SFW, incredibly)
posted by Guy Smiley at 3:39 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Am I the only one who suspects that Taffy Brodesser-Akner made up the whole "sorbet" anecdote?
posted by layceepee at 4:00 AM on April 22, 2015


Unlike the Spanish word burrito, the English word "burrito" does not typically have a rolled "r".
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:03 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"But that skill/knowledge doesn't necessarily speak to whether that commonly accepted pronunciation is correct to the exclusion of others, be it sorbet at fancy restaurants or burritos at Taco Bell. "

It's not to the exclusion of all other others, but the exchange in the interview occurred in a restaurant.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:06 AM on April 22, 2015


Don't forget how it played out.
After Taffy suggests the sorbet, she says, Don Lemon leans in, big warm smile, not wanting to correct me, but needing to: "Sorbette," he says, like a news anchor. "It's pronounced sorbette."

But when the nameless wage slave corrects him, Don Lemon gracefully accepts that he was in error. Why?
posted by fredludd at 4:16 AM on April 22, 2015


It isn't just that he used an alternative, lesser-used pronunciation, it's that he was convinced the much more common, also correct pronunciation was wrong. So much so that he felt the need to correct the writer. Sorry, he's not some pronunciation savant being a stickler for correct usage. He's a guy who didn't know how it's pronounced who happened to hit on an alternative pronunciation.
posted by chris24 at 5:06 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


>>trying to extrapolate from one bit of knowledge -- like the pronounciation of "forte"

...which is a funny example since there are two pronunciations of "forte" (one-syllable for the noun meaning strength, two-syllable for the adjective meaning loud)


Actually, no. They are literally the same word having the same two meanings in the languages from which they are borrowed, French in the case of the former pronunciation and Italian in the case of the latter. That said, I don't think I've ever heard the French pronunciation except when the word is being used as explicitly French, and musical dynamic indications are understood as being in Italian. The most common case where the word is used as an explicitly English word actually uses the two-syllable Italian pronunciation to mean "strength" (e.g., "that's not my forte").

Because we have borrowed so many words from other languages, changing some of them into distinctly English-pronounced words (e.g., bonafide) and retaining more or less the original pronunciation of others (e.g., entrepreneur) it can be extremely difficult to know how to pronounce certain words unless you already know.
posted by slkinsey at 5:45 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


He can mansplain the pronunciation to her, although he may never have encountered the word before, but in spite of his celebrity status and seven-figure salary he accepts being overruled by the nameless wage slave.

We don't have to speculate that the waiter was Caucasian, or that he was especially attractive or intimidating, or that he spoke with a Parisian or Oxbridge accent. This is not a case of bros before hos.

This is Don Lemon going along to get along. This is the Don Lemon who succeeded in high school by managing to get himself liked by all: when in doubt, suck up to the dominant culture. The waiter speaks confidently, and therefore must be right. Actually, it's more than that:
the waiter looks at Lemon like, Are you joking?
There's a threat implied here. Don Lemon might be subject to ridicule (even if only by a single raised eybrow) were he to persist in this folly.

I think that Taffy Brodesser-Akner did a fairly good job with this interview, although she was clearly swayed by the man's charm.
posted by fredludd at 6:07 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lemon's mispronunciation of sorbet is really quite understandable, especially given someone who gets so little sleep, because for some insane reason sherbet is not pronounced in the Frenchified way, sher-bay, like its dairy-free relative sorbet. It's pronounced sher-bette. So clearly the sleep-deprived, media-addled brain of one Don Lemon crossed the sorbet/sherbet wires and out came sorbette.

I for one always pronounced sherbet sher-bert until this became embarassing. I think I probably still would, a situation I avoid by never ordering dessert.

I love that the entire thread here is about a colorful anecdote from the first few paragraphs. I didn't want to read too much of a GQ article anyway.
posted by dis_integration at 6:15 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


sherbet (n.)
c. 1600, zerbet, "drink made from diluted fruit juice and sugar," and cooled with fresh snow when possible, from Turkish serbet, from Persian sharbat, from Arabic sharba(t) "a drink," from shariba "he drank." Formerly also sherbert. Related to syrup, and compare sorbet.

Well, same word, different destinations. Que la Turquerie commence! Monsieur Jourdain attend!

And by Gob there is a lot of Monsieur Jourdain in this thread.
posted by Wolof at 7:11 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Know what makes me happy? Haven't watched broadcast/cable 'TV' in 10 years and have no idea who you are talking about without research. News personalities are so 20th century...
posted by judson at 7:48 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


watch as fraula WINS THE THREAD

sharbat is pronounced just like some of we Americans (yours truly included) say sherbert, for sherbet. The second "r" sound can be heard.

I have just validated this with multiple Arabic speakers of a variety of career and life experiences, who represent three different dialects (Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian).

If you want to say sorbet, English-transliterated pronunciation "sorbay", feel free, 'tis the proper pronunciation in French.

once again, you're all right, stop fighting and for pete's sake what is UP with the classism it's sorbet/sherbet you eat it and smile you don't fling it at people.
posted by fraula at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


It isn't just that he used an alternative, lesser-used pronunciation, it's that he was convinced the much more common, also correct pronunciation was wrong. So much so that he felt the need to correct the writer. Sorry, he's not some pronunciation savant being a stickler for correct usage. He's a guy who didn't know how it's pronounced who happened to hit on an alternative pronunciation.

This presumes a rather uncharitable view towards Don Lemon. It's entirely possible that he's always heard it sorbette, that he grew up with it being called sorbette or someone once told him that it was pronounced sorbette, which is a valid pronunciation anyway. He imagined that it was the only pronunciation that is used and he was disabused of this notion by the waiter. However, both the waiter and Don Lemon correct someone over it and both of them are right. Lemon accepts this with as much aplomb as you can muster when you are called out for a small thing like that you've been doing for decades. I certainly would have a hard time displaying grace after that. So, no, he's not wrong. The other guy might be right too, but he's not wrong.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


But (in the US) sorbet and sherbert aren't the same thing...
posted by maryr at 11:42 AM on April 22, 2015


FUCK SAKE JUST CALL IT ICE CREAM AND LET'S GET ON WITH OUR LIVES
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


FWIW the OED has sorbet with a hard t and an alternate spelling of "sorbette."

The examples go back to the late 1500s and include a variety of spellings; it seems to have been was borrowed directly from several countries, most notably Italy sorbetto and France sorbet, and Turkey shorbet (hence the confusion between "sorbet" and "sherbet").

Cf. Spain sorbete, Portugal sorvete, Germany sorbet(t), and sorbet from the Low Countries would have varied between silent and hard 't's, roughly depending on proximity to France or Germany.
posted by Davenhill at 12:02 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the moral here is that Don Lemon uses the words he wants to use, regardless of the situation, and will tell you why he is right. He's not going to correct a waiter, but he's probably sitting there with smug satisfaction knowing he is right.

I would imagine he also knows it's right to apologize for saying that obviously the smell of marijuana was in the air at the Ferguson protests, but at the same time, he knows he was right to say it and think it, because he has ingrained opinions that aren't going to be shaken.

A guy who repeatedly sticks his foot in his mouth as a CNN anchor isn't making an effort to report in an unbiased fashion or to understand how his words are perceived. He's working with the knowledge he is speaking some sort of truth, and he's not going to change his world view when he knows he's right.
posted by mikeh at 8:13 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


FUCK SAKE JUST CALL IT ICE CREAM AND LET'S GET ON WITH OUR LIVES

Sorbet contains no dairy. (Sherbet, however, does.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:17 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you've never seen Don Lemon being fucking useless then I suspect tonight on CNN will be a fine chance.
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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