JOHN CHANCELLOR has changed his name. You might have noticed this. He has not changed the spelling. He has just changed the pronunciation. It is no longer Chance-ler. It is now John Chance-LOR. He did it because he wanted to, and he says he has no regrets. Being an anchorman means never having to say you're sorry. (Sah-ree.)
I do not have any basic objection to this. I come from a family where a fair number of people have changed their names. I have a cousin who went from Cohen to Cole and another whose new name makes him sound like a girl's boarding school, and yet another, long deceased, who changed his name after being imprisoned during World War I for selling scrap iron -- City of New York manhole covers.
My objection is, instead, practical. I am just sick and tired of people changing their names on me in mid-life -- mine or theirs. It is a bother. It is a pain.Maybe John Chance-LOR can remember the new pronunciation of his name, but I cannot. I am forever saying Chance-ler and then having to correct myself. I know that announcers at NBC had the same trouble and the reason I know this is that John Chance-LOR himself told me when he gave me an exclusive interviewe and returned my call by saying, of all things, "Chance-LOR here."
Chancellor, of course, is not the first person to decide that he wanted things different. The former Cassius Clay went from that to Muhammed Ali and while some people objected to the name change on religious or political grounds, my objections were simply that it was a pain to remember a new name. I have the same problem with Tony Dor-Set, who all through a spectacular football career at the University of Pittsburgh was Dor-set. He was Dor-set when he won the Heisman Trophy and he was Dorset when he was signed for a billion or so American dollars by Dallas, but just when I got to know him he became Dor-SET. Atta boy, Anthony.
The thing about names, at least those of famous people, is that they do not belong to them alone. They enter the public domain. You say them without thinking. It is like the language itself. You learn it and then you don't think about it and after a certain age, say 12 or 13, you are really incapable of learning another language without an accent. This is why I still have a tendency to call the next president of the United States Ronald Ree-gan -- the name by which he was known in my old neighborhood when he was nothing more than an actor on the silver screen.
This is probably why some people still say ice box for Frigidaire and fridge for refrigerator. It is why some people say Victrola for phonograph and phono for stero and why every sofa is a couch to me and why, incidentally, in a sleepy moment after a long airplane flight, I sometimes think I am about to land at Idlewild which has long since gone through two name changes and is now John F. Kennedy International Airport. tIt is Cape Kennedy, though, that is now Cape Canaveral. Get it straight. i
Anyway, back to John Chance-LOR. In his exclusive interview with me he said that Chance-ler had never been the correct pronunciation of his name. He allowed as how it is the standard way to pronounce both name and the office -- Chancellor of the Exchequer, for instance -- but his family was afflected by a strange pronunciation and they said Chance-LOR.
All these years, wherever he went -- at national political conventions, in North Africa, in Europe, at the anchor desk and out in the field -- Chancellor heard his name pronounced right, but not, as it were, in the family way. The situation must have been grating. What must have been more particularly grating is the fact, clearly, recollected by some, that among those who mispronounced the name of John Chance-LOR was none other than John Chance-LOR himself.
But last summer when David Brinkley (Brink-Lee) left the show, Chance-LOR made his move. For the first time, he would now be signing off as himself. No longer would he say, "Good night from New York" (Gud Nite From Nu Yawk) and Brinkley say, "Good night from Washington" (G'd Nite Frm Washton?"). Instead, Chance-LOR would be signing off as himself. He had the choice of continuing the old pronunciation of Chance-ler or coming out of the closet as Chance-LOR.
"I wanted to do it my way," he said, confusing himself with Frank Sinatra.
(Fran-ci-is Al-burt Ci-na-tra.)
For this some people consider him silly and some people consider him pretentious, but I for one, following a long family tradition, think that as long as he's doing it, I might as well, too. The name, folks is still C -- O -- H -- E -- N.
It's just pronounced Schuyler.