We’ve all learned a lot about Ukraine in recent weeks in months — like where it is, how resilient their people are and how to pronounce the name of its capital and biggest city, Kiev (or Kyiv).
As long as I can remember — I mean, like, going back months — I’ve called it KEE-ev. So did most folks, including government officials and journalists. As it turns out, that’s the way Russians pronounce it. Ukrainians pronounce it KEEV. And if that’s the way the Ukrainians want it, by golly, they’ve got it. The heck with the Russian way.
Yet, I still hear a few folks pronounce it KEE-ev, including some well-known people who darn sure know the Ukrainians prefer KEEV. They’re the kind of folks who think they are above evolution, change and improvement. To me, that’s a rather self-centered stance. If the Ukrainians want to pronounce Kiev as pumpernickel, fine by me.
By the same token, though, those of us who were unknowingly pronouncing it wrong simply out of ignorance were not being pro-Russian. Not every mistake is an evil one.
For instance, I used to call Kamala Harris ka-MAH-la instead of the preferred KAH-muh-luh. I didn’t do it out of racism. It was a poor assumption on my part — and the part of many others. In fact, when the Democratic presidential primary season first began in 2019, she was my favorite of the 137 contenders. I clearly didn’t despise her. And after I found out the proper way to pronounce her name, I’ve done it correctly ever since.
Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake. Of course, there are some who do come at such issues with ill will — such as when David Perdue mocked her in 2020 as “Kamala-mala-mala. I don’t know. Whatever.” He did so at a Trump rally for the sole, spineless purpose of pandering to those who relish classlessness. But, hey, anything for a vote.
It reminds me of how some folks hyperventilate if someone says they would rather you refer to them with the pronoun “they” instead of “he” or “she.” Fine by me. Admittedly, I do struggle a little inside with referring to a single person by a plural pronoun, but I’m strong enough to suppress that anxiety if that’s really what they want. As some folks used to say back home, “Don’t make no never mind to me.” I guess if I was OK with that double-negative, I can handle plural pronouns used as a singular reference.
If someone asks nicely to be a “they,” I’m happy to oblige. However, on the flip side, it’s not OK for the woke mob to come after folks for referring to someone as a he or she when those folks had no idea they wanted to be a “they.” Show a little patience. This is a bit of a new thing for some of us old folks. Some of us really are trying to be nice.
The woke mob is driven by an element of uptight folks who are always on the lookout for something to offend them — often when the person who is supposed to be offended isn’t even offended, presenting the woke mob with the additional burden of having to explain to the non-offended why they should be offended while also explaining to the offenders why they should apologize for the perceived offense and beg forgiveness … while being canceled anyway, just in case.
The woke mob also needs to understand that occasional confusion is OK. When trans woman Amy Schneider had her long recent winning streak on “Jeopardy” — every episode of which we watch in my home — we were excited for her. We didn’t care that she was once a man. I didn’t even know if she wanted to be a he, she or they, but any of the above was fine with me.
However, when she mentioned having a “girlfriend” during one of the mid-show interviews, I was momentarily confused. I wasn’t judging. I was just confused. I didn’t know men became women to be with women. And that’s OK. I got over it in a matter of seconds. Life resumed. No big deal. It was just an uncommon statement, such as when Howard Stern once said he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.
You have a constitutional right to go, “I’m sorry, what?” every now and then. If this world never causes you any confusion, well, bless your superior little heart. But some of us are not gifted with perfect perception or omniscience. So, be patient with us. A lot of us are trying to keep up.
And for those of you who think it’s too great a burden for you to respect a simple pronoun request, then thank your lucky stars you’re not in a place like KEEV, where they’ve got much bigger problems than your petty self-centeredness.