NPR, Are You For Real?

Let me say at the outset that I really like NPR.  If it is not classical music on my car radio, odds are that I will be tuned to NPR during my daily commute.  I enjoy the constant stream of news, interesting programming, and insightful interviews.  I really like it.

But I’ve also listened to it for quite a while now, and I’ve discovered one thing: they love hiring people with the strangest and most quizzical names imaginable.  Almost as if they’re playing a big joke on all of us.

Garrison, you’re just the tip of the iceberg.

I say this as someone whose last name is not exactly standard in the Anglo-Saxon records, and with the realization that NPR probably hires a lot of people named Bob Smith or Sara Rodriguez as well.  Nevertheless, a statistically improbable number of their hosts and radio announcers have not just non-English names, but legitimately curious, fanciful, and/or strangely amazing foreign monikers.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with a unique or ethnic name, but once again, the litany of exotic appellations on NPR makes me smile.  One or two I would buy, but the concentration of them on one radio station starts to feel like a conspiracy of sorts.

I am not the first to comment on this, but here’s a list:

1.  Jad Abumrad:  Host of “Radio Lab.”  Awesome program.  Jad is Lebanese-American.

2.  Neda Ulaby: Pronounced ne-duh oo-la-bee.  There’s a lot of vowel sounds in there.

3.  Quil Lawrence:  Delivers us all the news with flair.  But: it turns out his real name is David.  NPR must have made him change his name as part of his contract negotiations.

4. David Folkenflik: I’m pretty sure he’s Rumplestiltskin’s brother.

5.  Dina Temple-Raston:  Hyphenated with syllabic effect.

6.  Doualy Xaykaothao:  I have no comment.

Excellent people that do great work…but NPR must ask some interesting questions during interviews.  I can only imagine how it goes:  “So, your name is Jim, huh?”  “That’s right sir.  I speak three languages and have reported from every continent.”  “That’s nice.  Would you mind changing your name to Jimsanthemum Coriander?”  “Um….OK”

Even on the local level, our beloved Seattle affiliate seems to have continued this whimsical policy.  Imagine, my friends, turning on the radio and hearing a special report by Bellamy Pailthorp right after the traffic with Sprince Arbogast.  It’s like all of a sudden two characters from Lord of the Rings decided to go seek their fortune in the 21st century.

“Hey, Bellamy! How are you doing?”
“Shut up, Sprince.”


11 comments on “NPR, Are You For Real?

  1. Matt says:

    Your station for information….
    George Moore

  2. Doris says:

    You just made me choke on my latte :)!

  3. Peg Achterman says:

    There is also: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton – Dakaaaaar!

  4. Janet says:

    My thoughts exactly. I’ve been asking this questions for a long time. Does NPR seek them out? Do they just naturally attract all these unusually named folks? Inquiring minds want to know!

  5. Aaron says:

    It’s a fact that many in movies, radio and television change their names for branding purposes. The most common thing you will see is the use of the same letter for first and last name along with, to get it tweaked just right, the same number of letters in each, e.g. Steve Smith, Barbra Benter. But Sprince Arbogast, that’s gotta be original. NPR isn’t my favorite broadcaster as it’s nothing more than an organ of government with a clear cut agenda, think Pravda.

  6. Keith says:

    I can honestly say that I have had the exact same thoughts as Joshua here. There are times that I almost dont know what to think, and other times I dont know how the announcer can repeat these names with out wondering what the audience is thinking…….

  7. Jason says:

    I’ve heard lots of strange names while listening to NPR radio, some of which I can’t pronounce without help, much less help spelling. I must say that the weirdest name I’ve heard on KPLU 88.5, is Sprince Arbogast. I’ve known people named Arbogast, but I’ve never known anyone named Sprince. Where do they come up with names like that.

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