18 December: Pronouncing ‘Assange’

In my top ten list of things that indicate the collapse of the civilisation I thought I grew up in, the annihilation of Julian Assange is close to first place. Plenty has been written about the smear campaigns, but one small detail always struck me, which was how journalists pronounced his name to make it sound like it was from a foreign language, kind of snorting the syllable ‘arnge’, making it sound much stranger than it is.

Thirty years ago, I remember, our political philosophy lecturer at Leeds, Jim Parry, used to taunt us students: you all think you’re rebels and radical, but if you ever did something that truly threatened the power of the state, what would happen? — it’d kill you. It’d kill you. (He said it twice.) And I remember one of my friends being particularly scornful of that line. He didn’t argue against it (although it was a philosophy course), he just gave out that Jim Parry was obviously stupid for saying it. I heard later that friend went to work for the BBC.

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