The Slatest

Your 2020 Democratic Primary Pronunciation Guide

How to pronounce the names of Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and more.

Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris
Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris are among the 11 Democrats running for president. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images.

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary field is growing quickly. With each new candidate comes another name that Americans will have to learn. Some are straightforward: Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, John Delaney, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang. But for those that might trip you up, here’s a quick pronunciation guide so that you don’t embarrass yourself the next time you gab about politics.

Announced They’re Running

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

In 2016, the South Bend mayor wrote an essay with a helpful hint: “My surname, Buttigieg (Boot-edge-edge), is very common in my father’s country of origin, the tiny island of Malta, and nowhere else.”

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Julián Castro

Former secretary of housing and urban development

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Castro’s first name contains a soft Spanish J, which sounds like an H, and an accent indicating emphasis on the a. So it should be pronounced: “who-lee-AN.”

Tulsi Gabbard

Congresswoman from Hawaii

The congresswoman’s first name is pronounced “TULL-see.” Tulsi is a Hindu name that refers to a holy basil plant featured in Bhagavad Gita scripture.

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator from New York

An aide to the senator told the New York Times in 2009 that the first letter in her surname is “a sibilant G.” So the correct pronunciation is “JILL-uh-brand.” And remember, it’s “KEER-sten,” not “Kristen” or “KUR-sten.” The name “Gillibrand” reportedly has roots in medieval England.

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Kamala Harris

Senator from California

The senator has in the past said that her first name is basically the word “comma” with a “la” at the end. Harris released a campaign ad during her 2016 senate run in which children demonstrate the proper pronunciation. They also advise against common mispronunciations such as “cam-el-uh,” “kum-MAHL- uh,” and “karmel-uh.” Her name comes from the Sanskrit word for lotus.

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Amy Klobuchar

Senator from Minnesota

The senator’s surname is pronounced “KLOW-bu-shar,” with the first syllable rhyming with word blow.

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Sherrod Brown

Senator from Ohio

“Sherrod” essentially sounds like the name of the singer “Cher” with an “ud” appended to the end.

John Hickenlooper

Former governor of Colorado

You can basically sound out “Hickenlooper” phonetically: “HIH-ken-looper”

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Jay Inslee

Governor of Washington

“Inslee” is also pretty straightforward: “IN-z-lee”

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke

Former congressman from Texas

Beto, the diminutive form of the name “Roberto,” is a nickname that the former Texas representative has kept since childhood. It sounds like the word bet with an “oh” at the end. Sen. Ted Cruz consistently mispronounced his opponent’s name as “bait-oh” during their 2018 Senate race.

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