As the Iowa Legislature’s 2005 session winds down, it’s time for Radio Iowa news director O. Kay Henderson to bestow her “English as a Second Language” award to the legislator who’s uttered something strange, unusual or downright funny during legislative debate. Former legislator Tom Vilsack, the state’s governor, nearly stole the award this year for mispronouncing a couple of words, like pot pourri. He pronounced it like it’s spelled — pawt POOR’-ee. And in the past few weeks, Vilsack has repeatedly mangled this word — heinous. He pronounces it HEE’-nee-us. It’s proper pronounciation is HAY’-nuss. But the governor is not this year’s winner.
In recognition of this year’s nearly-even partisan split at the statehouse, which has spawned titles like Co-Leader and Co-President in the Senate, Henderson named Co-Winners of the 2005 English as a Second Language award.
The Co-Winners made their comments on March 1st, during committee debate on the bill that cracked down on meth-makers. Representative Paul Bell of Newton said this: “Some people say we are going to extremities with this bill,” Bell said.
Then, Representative Lisa Heddens of Ames said “this is a problem of epidemic performances.”
Henderson caught up with the Co-Winners Friday at the statehouse. “Oh, no, ” Bell said when told he was this year’s Co-Winner. Bell said he meant to say going to extremes.
“I didn’t even catch it. After I said it, no one even brought it to my attention, so I just now learned that I said that,” Bell said, with a laugh. Bell does try to think before he speaks. “A lot of times, depending on the issue, I try to write it down so I have my thoughts collected because sometimes when you get up there, there’s so much you want to say… and your mind’s going so fast you do forget things that you do want to say,” Bell said.
When Bell first learned he’d won the English as a Second Language award, he feared it was because he can’t pronounce a certain word. “I can’t say it,” Bell said after repeatedly trying, and failing, to say the word non-substantive. “There are words that I have to be careful with,” Bell said.
Lisa Heddens did a quick intake of breath when Henderson told her she’d share this year’s award. “You get caught up into what you’re talking about and sometimes you make a faux pas in the words you intend to use,” Heddens said. “And you pronounced faux pas correctly,” Henderson, the interviewer, said. “Thank you. Thank you,” Hedden replied, laughing. Heddens said her error was not intentional and no one else on the committee caught it.
“But of course the press would one to catch one of those little errors,” Heddens said.