Eyebrows were raised as United States Senate members consistently failed to pronounce Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai’s name during the panel hearing, despite managing to correctly address Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.
The panel, consisting of Democrat and Republican senators, questioned the Silicon Valley trio on October 28 in regards to election misinformation, hate speech and content moderation on their respective platforms.
The hearing comes only five days ahead of the US election scheduled on November 3. But what got the audience's attention was the sustained lack of effort to pronounce Pichai’s name right.
Born in Chennai, Pichai is an Indian-American. The name as this Buzzfeed report points out is not a tongue twister: “Pi-chai – pea like the vegetable and chai like the drink.” Yet all senators got it wrong going for some variation of “Pick-eye”.
Among the first to mispronounce Pichai’s name was Senator Roger Wicker, the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, who called him “Mr Pick-eye” during the opening remarks.
Senator Amy Klobuchar then called the tech CEO “Mr Pee-chey”, but corrected it on her second attempt – the first to pronounce his name correctly. Soon after Senators Maria Cantwell, Marsha Blackburn and Mike Lee addressed him as “Pick-eye” again.
The incident highlighted a consistent lack of effort to pronounce names of people of colour (POC) correctly, despite the Congress repeatedly saying harder to pronounce, western names right, the report added.
Notably, this was not the first time Pichai appeared before the Senate, having testified twice before – all times addressed as “Pick-eye”.