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.
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.