Imagine being able to pronounce 'Schwarzenegger,' but fumbling when it comes to 'Pichai.'
A panel of US Democrat and Republican senators questioned Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, about hate speech, election disinformation, and moderating content before the US Elections at the Section 230 hearing.
While the senators made some good points, there were errors too. One, in particular, stood out: The mispronunciation of Sundar Pichai's last name.
Pichai, who hails from Chennai in India, is now one of the top men for one of the most powerful digital platforms in the world, but US senators seemed to have made absolutely no effort to learn how to pronounce his name.
If you're Indian, you would already know how it's pronounced, but if you're in doubt: It's 'Peeh-chaye.'
US Senators, however, called him various variations of the word, "Pick-eye."Sen. Roger Wicker, the chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, was the first to screw it up when he asked Mr. “Pick-Eye” to present his opening remarks, reports Buzzfeed. After an hour into the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar also messed it up on the first try — saying “Pee-Chey” — but got it right on her second attempt, becoming the first senator to correctly pronounce his name.
It didn’t last, however, because soon afterward, Sen. Maria Cantwell, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, and Sen. Mike Lee reverted to “Pick-Eye.”
Nobody on the Internet was pleased.
Sundar Pichai should tell the Senators that Google has many use cases, like looking up how to same his name, and then cut his video.— Ryan Mac 🙃 (@RMac18) October 28, 2020
Google should be broken up now.But if you can't educate yourself to pronounce the name Sundar Pichai, maybe someone from the future, less hobbled by Mayflower mouth, should have your legislative seat.https://t.co/JxqpPKkp78 https://t.co/ooEAQL7iLg— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) October 28, 2020
It's kind of awful how many Senators mispronounce Sundar Pichai's name. There are only 3 panelists. These Senators could learn his name before asking him questions.— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) October 28, 2020
Sundar Pichai deserves the respect to have his name pronounced correctly. It is lazy and irresponsible for Congress members to not get it right. We can’t expect them to actually understand 230 but basic courtesy would be nice.— Sar Haribhakti (@sarthakgh) October 28, 2020
Whatever you think of big tech, the egregious mispronouncing of the name of of Alphabet and @Google ceo @sundarpichai, the only immigrant and POC being questioned at this exceedingly stupid Congressional tech hearing (where @tedcruz is being as fatuous as always) is appalling.— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) October 28, 2020
It is incredibly racist that no one has figured out how to pronounce Sundar Pichai's name. It is literally a phonetic pronunciation. Laziness is also low key racism when done at scale.— Tom Section 230 Nook (@nooktastical) October 28, 2020
Pichai was the only immigrant and POC at the Section 230 hearing, and the undertones of mild racism, and not bothering to do the work to pronounce his second name correctly. "Zuckerberg" is equally, if not more, harder to pronounce - but all but one person messed up, and the Senator instantly corrected himself afterwards.
Pichai didn't even get a correction, and no Senator certainly bothered to ask him how to pronounce his last name.
Pichai has addressed his Indian heritage and recounted the challenges he faced when he left India for the US to pursue a course at Stanford University 27 years ago, many times.
"My father spent the equivalent of a year's salary on my plane ticket to the U.S. so I could attend Stanford. It was my first time ever on a plane," Pichai said, adding that when he eventually landed in California, things were not as he had imagined.
"America was expensive. A phone call back home was more than $2 a minute, and a backpack cost the same as my dad's monthly salary in India," he recounted.
He said that when he first touched down in the state of California, he could hardly see the changes that were coming.
Pichai, who grew up in Chennai and studied engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, holds a master's degree from the Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School.