The announcer’s test

Want to be on the radio? Try saying this first: “The seething sea ceased to see, then thus sufficeth thus.”

Holger.Ellgaard / CC BY-SA

Radio and television announcers need some pretty sharp diction. Imagine reading the news and needing to perfectly pronounce a cascade of obscure place names or perfidious tongue twisters, knowing that any mistake will be uploaded to YouTube. (I’m not kidding, by the way; search for “radio bloopers” if you don’t believe me.) You also need to be able to talk for a long time without taking a breath, for obvious reasons.

To evaluate and prepare prospective radio and television announcers for this phonetic gauntlet, several “announcers’ tests” have been used. And they are bizarre. The tongue twister I mentioned in the lead paragraph (“the seething sea…”) was used by NBC Radio in the United States. One of my favourites is from the 1920s:

Penelope Cholmondely raised her azure eyes from the crabbed scenario. She meandered among the congeries of her memoirs. There was the Kinetic Algernon, a choleric artificer of icons and triptychs, who wanted to write a trilogy. For years she had stifled her risibilities with dour moods. His asthma caused him to sough like the zephyrs among the tamarack.

This one is full of pronunciation traps like “Cholmondely.” It’s more commonly written “Cholmondeley,” by the way, and is pronounced chum-lee. Ouch.

Anyway, if you think you have what it takes to work in radio or television, give these names a try and then get back to me: “Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Carl Schuricht, Nicanor Zabaleta, Hans Knappertsbusch and the Hammerklavier Sonata.”


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