Saturday, October 12, 2013

anchorman and news reader

I'm reading the Guardian Weekend magazine, as I often do on a Saturday afternoon, and within the first paragraph of Simon Hattenstone's interview with Piers Morgan, I'm so distracted that I need to blog. This is what happens when I read UK articles about things in America. So very often things are not quite right. And, of course, the lesson to take from this is that probably most news articles about other places are not quite right.

The problem for me was Hattenstone's question of how Morgan came to be "CNN's leading anchorman". Morgan isn't an (AmE) anchorman. An anchorman is the equivalent of a BrE news reader or news presenter. The person who is an 'anchor' for all the correspondents filing reports from other places, who sits at a desk and reads the news. (In the UK, though, a lot of them seem to stand these days. Has this also changed in the US? The problem with this is that they then have nothing to anchor them. And they have no where to hide the ream of photocopying paper they picked up on the way to the studio.)

It's not actually the case that anchor(man) isn't used in the UK. As the OED entry for anchor indicates (below), it's 'chiefly' AmE, but also found in the UK. (For instance, in the Independent's story about the ream-of-paper incident uses anchor.)


The OED entry uses a word one rarely hears in AmE: compère. In AmE, one is more likely to use emcee (or Master of Ceremonies). I find both a little odd in the news context; both words are more suited to (BrE) light entertainment.

But back to the Piers Morgan interview, the question is: does Hattenstone have a broader use of anchorman than I, as an AmE user of the term, have? Or has he just never watched the program(me) to know that Morgan is not a news reader? Morgan is, in AmE terms, a talk show host. As discussed a bit before here, the American understanding of talk shows is broader than the BrE notion of chat shows. American use talk shows for serious, newsy interviews and topics as well as for entertainment. 


In other news, I'm doing an Untranslatables October on Twitter again. If you have any suggestions of AmE or BrE words or expressions for which there's no real equivalent in the other dialect (and which I haven't covered in the previous Octobers), please let me know. I'll post a list of the 'untranslatables' after the end of the month.