Too Good to Check

Friday, July 31, 2009


Did you know that Walter Cronkite is so identified with the news business that in Sweden an anchorman is called a "Kronkiter"? And speaking of anchorman, did you know that word was coined in the 1950s to define Cronkite’s role on broadcast TV? Neither did we. Perhaps because none of it is true. Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, traced some of the myths surrounding the man who was once the most trusted in America.

Comments [5]

joelle esther benyayer from 471 boulevard raymond poincaré

i love it too good to check well if you dont check how you know friendly to you and the country i in love with united states of america;;;;;;well here coucouland call how how oh ya south of France loose the bousole so they dont know where is south and where is France;;;;;well difficult to communicate so it a saw of the day ;;;;;when the french try to block an artist or play yoyo with human joelle esther Benyayer

Mar. 12 2010 04:23 AM
steve miller from new york

I wrote Cronkite's obit for the WSJ and I tried hard to confirm that "Kronkiter" story because it was such a piquant detail. I imagined it as a perfect pullquote or photo caption. I found it I think in Halberstam's Powers That Be and spent a couple of hours on it with no success at all. I remember going so far as to enter "anchorman" in Google's English --> Swedish translator. The answers: "nyhetsankare" and "programledare." So in the end I regretfully cut that detail. Glad I didn't take Halberstam's word for it!

Aug. 04 2009 02:09 PM

I remember watching Walter Cronkite during the Bicentennial. He seemed like he was celebrating too because he was slumped over in his chair and kind of slurred his speech and just in general acted very very happy. Am I the only one who remembers this? I remember other people at the time seemed to think so too.

Aug. 02 2009 04:02 PM
Paul Wilbur from Washington DC

Wasn't part of the story also that all the Dutch newsmen also wore moustaches in imitation of Cronkite? Is that part true at least? ;-)

Aug. 01 2009 07:09 PM
Judith Hertog from Norwich, VT


I am writing in response to the story about Walter Cronkite. Congratulations on having done a great job of debunking some nonsensical myth!

I am a linguist and a native speaker of Dutch. I have long been aware of these misconceptions concerning the legacy of David Cronkite. A “Kronkite” is indeed not the Dutch word for “news anchor”. The word that is used in the Netherlands is “nieuwslezer” (news reader).

Thank you for finally correcting these errors that have entered popular imagination through sloppy fact-checking.

There remains, however, one error I need to correct. The Dutch word “zimmer” does not mean “authoritative.” “Zimmer” is a nominalization of the verb “zim,” which, in old Dutch meant “to observe” or “scan”. A “zimmer” was the person who’d stand guard over fermenting cheese to make sure that the temperature remained at a level optimum for the growth of cheese cultures. A “zimmer” is modern Dutch slang for a “tattletale”.

Judith Hertog

Aug. 01 2009 05:25 PM

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