Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor mispronounced 'Kamala' while swearing in the vice president - a disappointing moment on a groundbreaking day

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kamala harris swearing in oath of office
Vice President Kamala Harris takes the oath of office administered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor mispronounced 'Kamala' while swearing in Vice President Harris.

  • Her name is pronounced "COMMA-luh," not "ku-MAH-luh."

  • Republicans mocked her name while campaigning, so it was disappointing to see it mispronounced again.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Vice President Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday when she was sworn in as the first Black and South Asian woman to serve as second-in-command. However, the groundbreaking moment was marred by a mistake - Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor mispronounced her name, saying "Kuh-MAH-luh" instead of "COMMA-luh."

While the mispronunciation was almost certainly unintentional, people on Twitter took notice of the misstep.

Harris didn't miss a beat, repeating the oath after Justice Sotomayor and substituting in the proper pronunciation. She likely understands that her first name is unfamiliar to many - she even included a guide to saying it correctly in the introduction of her memoir, "The Truths We Hold."

"My name is pronounced 'comma-la,' like the punctuation mark," she wrote. "It means 'lotus flower,' which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture."

Republicans mocked Harris' name on the campaign trail, so it was disappointing to see it mispronounced at the inauguration

Kamala Harris
We should know how to say her name by now. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Mispronouncing "Kamala" became more than just an unintended slip-up during the 2020 presidential campaign - it became a form of racial harassment. Mocking her Sanskrit name became a frequent punchline at Trump's campaign rallies, and at an October rally, Senator David Perdue called her "KAH-mah-la, Kah-MAH-la, Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know, whatever."

"Well that is incredibly racist," tweeted Sabrina Singh, Harris' campaign press secretary. Perdue's campaign argued that he'd simply mispronounced the name.

Harris responded by telling People magazine that it's a simple matter of respect to say people's names correctly.

"I think that the name that your parents gives you, whoever you are, meaning whatever your gender or race or background or language your grandmother speaks, is a very special thing," she said. "Many cultures have naming ceremonies. It is a gift that is an incredible, familial gift. The family gives the child a name and so I come at it from that: not about myself, but for everyone ... Respect the names that people are given and use those names with respect."

Read more: Kamala Harris fires back at President Trump and other Republicans who mockingly mispronounce her name

Harris' oath of office marked historic progress for women and people of color in America. But it's unfortunate that such a defining aspect of her identity - her name - was not afforded the respect it deserves.

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