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.