This is from the official White House transcript of today’s town hall meeting in New Orleans:

We’ve got our senior senator from the great state of Louisiana, Mary Landrieu.  (Applause.)  We’ve got our lieutenant governor — I don’t know if he’s related — his name is Mitch Landrieu.  (Applause.)  We’ve got an outstanding member of Congress, Charlie Melancon. (Applause.) And we’ve got our newest member of the Louisiana delegation, Joe Kyle, from this district, with his beautiful daughter. (Applause.)

The President actually mispronounced the freshman Congressman’s name in two different ways, first as “Cow” and then as “Chow.” I think it’s pronounced like gaow; correct me if I am also wrong. I’m not criticizing the President, really.

Based on the official transcript, I have to wonder if the President was simply given the wrong name.


House Speaker Pro Tem Karen Carter Peterson is here.  (Applause.) Senate President Joel Chaissom is here. (Applause.)

Not to be nit-picky, White House, but it’s Chaisson. For the record, the President correctly pronounced his name.

To those of you who were there or who watched the end of the event online, did you see Congressman Steve Scalise? Because if he wasn’t there, then there was someone who looked a heckuva lot like him standing near the Landrieus at the very end of the event.

6 thoughts

  1. When “W” mispronounced names he was dismissed as an idiot, but when Obama does it, he was “simply given the wrong name.” Classic!

  2. It’s just bizarre how far off the transcript was from what he actually said; that’s all. And no doubt, these were prepared remarks, and Obama was reading from a teleprompter.


    I’d bet most people in the state of Louisiana have never even heard of Joe Cao, much less know how to pronounce his name. For eight years, George Bush was in charge of the largest military force in the world, and he never bothered to learn how to pronounce the world “nuclear.”

    1. That’s ok we’ve been dealing with them constantly for nearly 20 years yet most Americans still seem to think “eye rock” and “eye ran” are countries!

      Correct: “ih rock” and “ih ron” with an “ih” between the i from “in” and the ee from “teen”

  3. I am a linguist, but not an expert on Vietnamese by any stretch. I believe that Cao is something in between “Cow” and “Gow” – starting with a soft “k”, then transitioning into a “g” (as in “gut”).

    “Eye rack” is probably acceptable, if it’s not drawn out too much. “Ee rock” (or “Ih rock”, as you suggest, probably equally as good) is probably the most preferred, but, living in the south, we must allow for wide latitude, especially for foreign place names.

    1. Ace, you’re a linguist? Where did you study? There aren’t many of us around from CenLa.

      I would have to argue that from a linguistic standpoint, and especially with regard to cultural linguistics they eye-rack could be nothing but unacceptable.

      My reason being that first the /ai/ (eye) phoneme is very rare in Arabic. Second, the /ae/ (ash) phoneme is much rare than /a/ (rock).

      Finally, in many middle eastern cultures it is considered quite offensive to knowingly mispronounce a person or place’s name. This was actually the supposed reason that George H.W. Bush so brutally mispronounced Saddam Hussein’s name. It was an insult and intended as such.

      The general rule in international pronunciation is to go with the native pronunciation. So if in Iraq and Iran they say /irakh/ (ee-rock) and /iran/ (ee-ron) then we should follow with this complementary pronunciation as much as the constraints of our native speech allows.

      To me it’s no less insulting to call the country eye-rack anymore than it is to hear someone from another part of the US call us “Loozee-anna” or talk about “Luh – fay – it” or those in the media who insist on pronouncing Baton Rouge as if it were some farcical Adam Sandler bit (Batt-taw Rooooooozzzzzzhhhh).

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