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Repeat after us: Sotomayor is pronounced soh-toh-my-YOR

July 28, 2009 |  4:44 am

Soto When newscasters and radio journalists announced in May that President Obama had nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, there was a collective pause . . .

Just how do you pronounce that name? 

Some said it SOH’-tuh-my-or, stretching out the first syllable of the judge's last name.

Others said it SAD’-ah-my-er, imbuing the name with a New York twang.

Spanish speakers around the world cringed. They know that Sotomayor is, according to the rules of the language, supposed to be pronounced with an emphasis on the final syllable, like this: soh-toh-my-YOR.'

One would hope that after months of intense vetting of the nominee, Americans might have her name down by now. But at Sotomayor's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in recent weeks, the newly anointed Minnesota Sen. Al Franken mangled it, calling her, SU’-do-mah-yare.

Even Sen. Patrick Leahy, one of the judge's most ardent defenders, repeatedly stumbled over her name. (One would think Leahy would be sensitive to this sort of thing given his name, which, by the way,  does not rhyme with "leafy." It's LAY-hee.)

The Republicans on the committee, on the other hand, did a pretty good job with Sotomayor's name.

Mark Krikorian can't be happy about that. Krikorian is the director of the Center for Immigration Studies (a think tank that calls for tougher immigration laws) who drew fire from the left in May when he wrote on his blog that  "putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English" and "is something we shouldn't be giving in to."

Krikorian tried to turn the pronunciation of Sotomayor's name into metaphor for multiculturalism, saying "There are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be."

Response to Krikorian's posting was swift and mostly critical. Mariela Rosario wrote at Latina.com, "Our names are a fundamental part of our identities. We have the right to have them correctly pronounced." Andrew Leonard, writing on Salon.com, said one might imagine that "if Republicans want to have any chance of winning future elections in the Southwest, griping about pronunciation is probably not a smart strategy." Maria Hinojosa, who hosts NPR's Latino USA, had a more humorous take here.

The senators on the Judiciary Committee will again be tested on their pronunciation of Sotomayor's name today, when they vote on whether to recommend her nomination to the Senate. In the meantime, we humbly offer up some study tips.

David Letterman has a very funny round-up on how NOT to pronounce Sotomayor's name. And we can tell you how to say it correctly.

Please, repeat after us: 

SOHN-ya soh-toh-my-YOR

-- Kate Linthicum (LIN-thi-cum)

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Photo: Charles Dharapak / AP

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