Just say “Pradeep Khosla.”

Have you ever heard of Pradeep Khosla? No. And that’s my point. Neither had I when I had to write and recite a story for KPBS Radio about the fact he had been appointed the new chancellor of UC San Diego.

Pradeep Khosla

Khosla is a scientist. He’s a pen-and-calculator-in-the-pocket kind of guy, an electrical engineer who has been the dean of the engineering school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He’s also Indian, and he has an exotic name that nobody knew how to pronouce… at least nobody I knew in California, including nobody in the UC President’s office in Oakland.

A guy there told me it was PRAH-deep KAHS-luh, so that’s what I called him on the air. But it was supposed to be PRAH-deep KOSE-lah (KOSE rhymes with dose). This might seem like a small thing, and the vast-majority of non-Indian people who heard it didn’t care and didn’t know any better. But I did get it wrong, and I first knew this when I listened to a voice message from Pittsburgh that informed me of the right pronunciation. Unfortunately, I’d already filed my story and it had already been broadcast.

The next day I started hearing from the Indian community. Amita Sharma, who works with me, came up and said, “You know that Indian man you talked about yesterday? And the way you said his name?”

“Yea,” I said. “It’s supposed to be KOSE-lah. I know.”

Then I got a call, forwarded to me from the main switchboard.

“Excuse me. But there was a story on the radio yesterday about a man from India and his named was grossly mispronounced.”

“Yes, I know! His name is KOSE-luh,” I said. “I was told is was KAHS-luh, but the person who told me that was wrong. Sorry!”

She may have also been reacting to the fact that our morning newsreader botched his name even worse, calling him KASS-luh. Don’t ask me why.

I know, from years of working in broadcasting, that you can never be sure of the way someone says their name until you hear it from their lips. But I’ve gotten the impression that the Indians are pretty consistent in the way they pronounce common names. For all I know Khosla is as common a name, in India, as Jones is in the U.S.

We all know foreigners who get tired of forcing Americans to say their names right and finally relent. “Pray-deep Case-la? Sure. Whatever.” We’ll see. It wouldn’t surprise me if Pradeep arrives and actually tells us it’s KAHS-luh, after all. Or maybe he heard about my radio story, and he’s always wanted to pronounce his name KAHS-luh and he decides this is his opportunity to make the change.

If he does, just know you heard it from me first. In the meantime I’ve stopped taking calls from Indians.

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