The president sailed across the Potomac River the other day for a ceremony on Theodore Roosevelt Island in which he hoped to shore up his reputation among environmentalists. It was a sunny, humid day, a great one for a Potomac trip. It would have been fun to be along.

But the broadcast news accounts of the event set my teeth on edge. To a person, the reporters pronounced Theodore Roosevelt's last name the same as that of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As anyone schooled in political nuances must know, Theodore Roosevelt's name rhymed with "goose." It was, to switch spellings a bit, "Ruse-a-velt." Franklin Roosevelt, a distant cousin, pronounced his name to rhyme with "rose" -- "Rose-a-velt." Since FDR served later and longer, his version has been generally adopted.

While what is said here about the pronunciation is fairly common knowledge among those of mature years, I once got direct confirmation from someone who uncontestably knew: the late Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She acidly rejected her cousin Franklin's pronunciation out of hand.

We could settle the problem of the island's pronunciation easily by going back to its original colonial-era name, Analostan Island. Back even earlier it had been called Barbadoes. But changing the name of the island wouldn't keep Dave Statter and the other radio traffic reporters from mispronouncing the name of the "Ruse-a-velt" Bridge.