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Home / US / What it revealed when senators repeatedly mispronounced the names of Kamala Harris and Sundar Pichai

What it revealed when senators repeatedly mispronounced the names of Kamala Harris and Sundar Pichai



People in almost every ethnic group have had to deal with others struggling to get their names right. And the problem seems to persist no matter how strong a person becomes or appears.

Despite the fact that Pichai runs one of the world’s most powerful companies and he testified on Capitol Hill before, the senators seem unable to pronounce his name correctly – calling instead he is the variations of “Mr. Pick Eye” and Mr. Pish Eye. “(It is pronounced” pih-chai “, like the spiced drink.)

Then came Sen. David Perdue’s handling of the Democratic vice-presidential candidate earlier this month in a rally for President Donald Trump. The Georgian Republicans called its colleague, Senator Kamala Harris, “Ka-ma-la or Ka-ghost-la, Kamala-mala-mala, “interrupt with”
; I don’t know, whatever. “

(Harris has served in the US Senate for almost four years and pronounces her name “COMMA-la”, like punctuation.)

Constantly mispronouncing someone’s name is best lazy and worst malice, as many are quick to point out. And too often, so-called “too hard” names belong to people of color.
To paraphrase what actress Uzo Aduba said her mother told her when growing up, “If they can learn to speak Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky,” everyone can learn to speak Sundar Pichai and Kamala Harris.

Ultimately, the expert says, it’s only about power and respect.

The name is often associated with race

The encounter with unfamiliar sounding names is inevitable in a multicultural country like the United States, and it’s common to stumble a few times at first.

You can recall how many Americans stumbled upon the name of former South Bend, Indiana mayor, mayor Pete Buttigieg (it is pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge”), prompting his husband to tweet several ways. phonetic pronunciation.

Megha Sundara, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles, says non-English names often use stress patterns or sounds that are not used in English and that memorization of those strings does. can be a challenge.

The problem, however, is not unintentional mistakes, but how people recover from them.

“You can ease your embarrassment or apologize and fix it,” Sundara wrote in an email to CNN. “Because ‘say my name’ is probably the most basic way for us to ask others to admit our existence.”

So when someone doesn’t take the time to learn the proper pronunciation of someone else’s name – or worse, deliberately mocking that name as “too hard” to pronounce – that could be viewed as malicious. .

Comment: Don't pretend that David Perdue is not racist on Kamala Harris

Rita Kohli, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Riverside, said it also recalled the nation’s history of ruling groups forcing people from oppressed groups, such as Africans being arrested. slaves and indigenous children in government schools.

“There is a long history of forced assimilation in this country as a way to maintain the power structure,” she wrote in an email to CNN. “To ensure that White Anglo Saxon, English, Protestants still dominate, unsuitable people were asked to change things like their language, their names. It created a culture where rulers were ruling. not engage in reciprocal learning. “

Kohli added that the ruling groups removed some names because it was too difficult to obtain the right to be associated with racism and other forms of oppression.

According to Kohli, Perdue’s mocking of his senator’s name “disrespect and disrespect a black and black vice presidential candidate”. (Perdue’s campaign spokesperson said that he just mispronounced the name and made no sense about it.)

“One thing is for sure, if you’ve known someone for a long time, but still misrepresent their name, guess who has the power in that relationship?” Sundara added. “It’s not someone who can’t fix you and don’t make it stick.”

Some of the immigrant’s children have adjusted their names to make them ‘easier’

Letting others keep messing with your names can be so exhausting that some people with non-English names decide to adjust or change them.

One way is to adopt the Anglicized pronunciation.

For example, many South Asians pronounce Kamala, a common Indian name, as “come-lah” or “come-uh-lah.”

“People asked me how to pronounce it. There are ways,” Harris said in a 2017 interview with David Axelrod. “If you asked my grandmother, she would say ‘come-lah.’ I usually help people pronounce it by saying, ‘Wow, just think of the comma and add “-la” at the end. “
It's 'comma-la': Pronounced name Kamala Harris

Others, like Mindy Kaling, shortened their names.

The actress, born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, told NPR’s Terry Gross that while performing her childhood monologue comedy, the actress had difficulty pronouncing her South Indian surname – because So she shortened it, even though she emotionally mixed judgment.

“It’s bittersweet, but I have to say having a name that people can pronounce has helped a lot in my career,” she said in the interview.

And then there are some who choose to use a completely different name, like former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.

Jindal, whose parents immigrated from India and who was born Piyush, started naming Bobby as a boy because he identified a character in “The Brady Bunch”.

But some are pushing back

But many people of color are no longer willing to adapt to the dominant white culture at the cost of their own heritage.

Last year, comedian Hasan Minhaj appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ show and refused to continue on a segment until the TV host pronounced his name correctly.

“When I first started acting in a comedy, people used to say, ‘You should change your name,’ he said on the show.” I was like, ‘I won’t change my name. If you can pronounce Ansel Elgort, you can pronounce Hasan Minhaj. ‘”

Harris also insists that people give her the right name, linking her experience with what so many others go through.

She said on The Daily Show: “That the top-elected leaders should behave like they did when they were a kid on the playing field, that shows their poor appreciation of the blame. responsibility with the role they have ”. “And I think it’s a reflection of their values ​​and maturity.”




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