My wife was watching her latest binge TV series when she told me something odd occurred. In the episode, Woody is going to marry his girlfriend (Kelly) when they discover they are different flavors of Lutheran. Enter the word synod. Those of us who are Lutheran, and apparently the entire internet, know how to pronounce this word. However, Cheers seems to have had some challenges in pronunciation.

Synod is pronounced sin-uhd. Not sine-uhd or sin-odd. But Cheers, with its staff of writers, actors, researchers, camera men, and everyone else involved, did not seem to have a grasp of the pronunciation. Woody, who's supposed to be (LCMS) Lutheran, calls it a sin-odd. Nobody corrects him, and my wife thinks at least one other character also uses this pronunciation. Even the computer-generated YouTube pronunciation videos uploaded by Chinese people who probably can't say one word in English pronounce synod properly. So why and how could Cheers be this wrong?

I suggested to my wife that perhaps it's the Jewish/Atheist/Agnostic Hollywood world that exists just as much today as in the 80s and 90s, but I only half believe myself when I suggest that sort of thing. I think the most likely scenario is that someone important in the set mispronounced the word, and that made it impossible for the underlings to correct him. For example, I taught with a guy who said Oedipus all wrong. Since he was a “doctor” of teaching, most of the other English teachers in our department also began saying it wrong. Suddenly, I was the only teacher saying it as Ed-ipus, with everyone else saying Eed-ipus. Then some other Doctor of Englishy Stuff showed up and made fun of a colleague for saying it wrong, and suddenly people started saying it right. Ed, not Eed. Professors do that kind of thing to those who are less enlightened, like changing Car-ne-gie to Car-nay-gie or Seltic to Keltic (spelled Celtic).

I could not find a British or other language pronunciation of synod that lined up with the Cheers pronunciation. One could make the argument that the writers or director wanted it to be a running joke of some sort, but I have found no evidence of that intent online. Sure, it could have been done to reinforce the ignorance or Woody and his fiancee, but that technique normally resulted in correction or head shaking by the other characters. In fact, the word synod could have been a perfect opportunity for Woody to be the authority rather than the idiot, since Lutherans know synods better than anyone. No one is a complete idiot on all subjects. Actually, the very fact that Woody was supposed to be Lutheran and presumably confirmed means that he would have had a better understanding of his own faith than most of the bar patrons or sitcom producers. Even farm boys from Indiana would have learned a majority of Luther's Small Catechism. If I still had to memorize the whole book in 1989, I'm sure Woody, several years my senior would have been responsible for the same kind of profession of faith. It's interesting to note that Hanover, Indiana, does not have an LCMS church, and after reading how much effort went into establishing Faith Lutheran in Madison, I assume Woody would have traveled to that town for church. Interestingly enough, Resurrection Lutheran, also in Madison, would have been slightly closer to Hanover for the Boyd family.  I found evidence of this church at least as far back as 1976, which means Woody would have been in close proximity to two Lutheran churches of differing synods for at least a decade of his life, even if Resurrection wasn't called ELCA at the time (it was part of the Indiana-Kentucky LCA; Kelly, Woody's fiancee, was LCA before it would merge with ELCA). I know first hand that there are even some WELS Lutheran churches in Indiana, as my relatives founded one of them. In fact, anyone who grew up in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, or Minnesota would know all about Lutherans and synods, even if it was a basic understanding of the liberal one (ELCA), conservative one (LCMS), and ultra-conservative one (WELS). The good news is that any flavor of Lutheran can hire Luthernet for a new website, but that may be neither here nor there. Kind of like Woody's pronunciation of synod on Cheers, I suppose. It may not matter in the grand scheme of Christianity or Hollywood, but it's just one of those details that makes a difference to those of us who know. It's like if Woody spoke Klingon or Elvish and then messed it up.

Stories from Jacksonville

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • 1986 Bertone (Fiat) X 1/9 in Jacksonville

    I've been asked by a reader to add some photos of my X. I don't think she'd mind. 

    I've seen a few people snap photos of her as I drive around, but I've kind of neglected to take many of my own. Her permanent, legal home is in Wisconsin, where most of the photos were taken. 
  • Section 8 Housing In Jax and St. Johns


    I first heard of Section 8 housing when I saw a news story about St. Johns County. That story said St. Johns had some kind of law against Section 8 housing, which resulted in fewer options to house the homeless contingent in St. Augustine. I never looked up Section 8 at the time, though I did wonder how St. Johns could ban Section 8 while Duval can't. I'm still not all that sure about how or why, but I do know most of us don't want Section 8 in our back yards. In fact, I just discussed something similar to Section 8 with my kids, as we drove past the Dunes Apartments next to Ed Austin Park. I said the apartments looked so bad that it might make sense to pull them down and build some smaller single-family homes, which might result in some of the people who no one really wants hanging out in a park being forced to move away. But then one of my kids asked me where they'd go, and that's what makes it complicated. I'd like to say, "St. Johns County," but I can't. And so that means that those of us in Duval who live too close to Section 8 housing will eventually move to where that type of housing can't exist.
  • Jax Local Ad of the Week: Beachside Swimwear and Gifts
    First and foremost, support local businesses. Now, let's look at the ad. 

    At first glance, this week's ad might seem like standard swimwear fare, but (like most ads) there are some strange details as you look closer. But maybe it's just because the business is trying to sell off those old 2020 swimsuits. Or it's just really difficult to make swimsuit models look natural in a tiny print ad.