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.
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.