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Thomas Jefferson U. announcer badly botches graduates’ names at ceremony

How the heck does ‘Thomas’ become ‘Too-Moo-May’?

When I got my master’s many moons ago, I had to write my last name phonetically on the graduation announcement card — that is, unless it was an obvious/well-known name.

“Dave” is common enough so I just let that alone. But I wrote “Hue-ber” (or “Hyoo-ber,” I can’t precisely recall) under my last name as I remembered the many solicitation phone calls I’d gotten asking for “Mr. Hubber.”

The announcer pronounced it perfectly.

But whoever was doing the announcing at Thursday’s Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Nursing commencement had a really tough time. In what People compared to a classic “Key and Peele” skit, this announcer couldn’t even pronounce the most common names.

“Stephanie” was pronounced “Ste-FOO-nee,” “Jessica” was pronounced “Jeh-SEE-koo,” and “Allison” was “Al-lih-SIN-ah” (with her last name of “Bishop” said as “BEE-shup”). Oh, and let’s not forget how “Marissa Lynn” became one name: “Ma-rih-SEH-lin.”

But the topper had to be what poor Sarah Virginia Brennan had to endure:

The announcer apparently had gotten heat from the audience and elsewhere, for she eventually made the following announcement at the ceremony:

@sauc.y Replying to @lucy_gillian #greenscreenvideo ♬ original sound – Saucy 🍉

MORE: U. Illinois transgender students protest use of ‘deadnames’ during commencement ceremony

In a statement, the university said “The mispronunciations occurred due to the way phonetic spellings were presented on the speaker’s cards, which was noted when the presenter apologized during the ceremony. This unfortunate error does not reflect the immense respect we have for our graduates and the value we place on their hard-earned accomplishments.”

Michael Tanenbaum at Philly Voice noted that some folks said the university’s explanation “didn’t seem like a good enough justification” for some of the crazy pronunciations.

“A university stream of the full commencement strangely shows that in some cases — including with fairly difficult names — the presenter might have no problem at all before promptly messing up a much simpler name,” he wrote.

Indeed, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports all of the graduates’ actual, correctly spelled names were printed on the announcement cards along with any phonetic assistance.

Graduate TJ Canevari was fed up enough that he yelled out what should have been obvious to someone employed at a university: the correct pronunciation of “Thomas.” The announcer had said something along the lines of “Too-Moo-May.”

“I honestly felt very disrespected and unappreciated after all the hard work, money, and time we gave to the university,” Canevari said. “It was just really disappointing.”

Here’s a clip of the phonetic fiasco:

@yutonghanofficial what happened tju #fy #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #tiktok #viral #funny ♬ original sound – Yutong Han

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IMAGE: Urustar/Flickr.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.