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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Wilford Brimley isn't about to let some endocrinologist tell him how to say "diabetes"

Illustration for article titled Wilford Brimley isn't about to let some endocrinologist tell him how to say "diabetes"
Photo: Silver Screen Collection (Getty Images)

Wilford Brimley, bless his heart, decided long ago how diabetes was pronounced and nothing—not even a goddamned medical professional who specializes in the disease—was ever going to change his mind. His Liberty Medical advertisements are immortal works of stubborn word interpretation, showing an actor so confident in his craft that “die-ah-beet-us” has been reinforced as an acceptable pronunciation despite almost nobody ever saying it his way.


The Found Footage Festival’s YouTube channel has assembled a video that shows how different this would be if, at a fateful moment in time, Brimley had been less of an iconoclast and more willing to accept the pressure of an endocrinologist saying “diabetes” the common way repeatedly, right to his walrus-mustached face.

The clip is from a PSA entitled Understanding Diabetes...And Living A Healthy Life that’s cut to show Brimley, standing in a doctor’s reception area with jacket opened to show off his giant belt buckle, saying “die-ah-beet-us” over and over and over again. Dr. Gerald Bernstein, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, walks out and looks to Brimley, film and TV actor, before implicitly calling him out.

“Thank you, Wilford,” Dr. Bernstein says, shaking Brimley’s hand before throwing down the gauntlet by pronouncing the word as we’re all familiar with it. The clip then alternates in a sort of showdown between the two men, each with their own preferred way of saying the name of the disease in question. (Another doctor gets a few lines and, obviously wanting to impress the actor, follows his pronunciation before switching back). It continues like this, doctors and Brimley challenging one another and nobody coming out of the chopped-up video having had their mind changed.

Finish watching it and remember that Brimley should be an example to us all. Instead of giving in to peer pressure (even medically-sound peer pressure) or changing his style to fit the demands of mainstream society, Brimley sticks to his guns, saying “diabetes” the way he knows, deep inside, it ought to be said. Remember this the next time you see Brimley, perhaps while he crosses a winter river on a horse, and know that you must make a choice in your pronunciation—and that your choice determines whether you side with Wilford Brimley or some stuffy endocrinologist.

[via Boing Boing]

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.