Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated anchormen do it.
No, not that. Wash your mind out with soap and go back three spaces. We're talking about those who pronounce this month Feb-yoo-ary.
Our month-long campaign to preserve the "r" in Feb-roo-ary is winding down, even as the month does the same. But I can't let either sputter to a stop without pointing the Fickle Finger of Flawless Februariness at Walter Cronkite. He may be the most famous champion of error that the badly mangled Second Month has ever known.
Yes, kiddies. It's the awful truth. Uncle Walter pronounced February without the first "r."
In fact, he delighted in saying Feb-yoo-ary. He remained defiantly incorrect about it throughout his tenure on the CBS Evening News. His defense? In essence, Walter argued that since Feb-yoo-ary was in the best dictionaries, he could pronounce it that way.
He evidently never bothered to read the not-so-fine print in the fronts of the same volumes, which explains that the mere inclusion of a pronunciation does not mean it's accepted by "cultivated" society.
Thanks to Jack Davis of the CBS staff, I have unearthed a transcript of the "tag" Walter Cronkite recited to end the Evening News of Feb. 18, 1977. You tell me if it convinces you. It sure as blazes doesn't convince me.
"Every year about this time, a phenomenon repeats itself across the land. CBS Evening News viewers take pen in hand to complain regarding the pronunciation of the calendar's second month by the anchorman of this broadcast.
"Every five years or so, the criticisms get to him. This is the fifth year, so here goes the essay.
"Feb-yoo-ary is just as good a word as Feb-roo-ary. It is the second choice of the Random House and Funk and Wagnalls dictionaries. It is the first choice of Webster's Third International and Seventh New Collegiate dictionaries.
"However, never known to pick a fight when there's a more diplomatic retreat, this correspondent is leaving tonight for South Africa. Roger Mudd, who says Feb-roo-ary, will be sitting in here, Feb-roo-ary lovers.
"And that's the way it is, Friday, Feb-yoo-ary 18 . . . "
Two more things you should know. Dan Rather says Feb-yoo-ary. Might explain his present job -- and Roger Mudd's, too.
And although I tried to give him a chance to defend himself, Walter Cronkite is nowhere to be found. CBS in New York says he's incommunicado on a sailboat somewhere off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where it's too warm to worry about February, regardless of how you say it.