Merci. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Merci. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Coveted White House invitations can be all about how you pronounce your name.

At the elegant state dinner for President Francois Hollande of France last night, guests included late-night comedian Stephen Colbert, whose on-air persona pronounces his name "Cole-Bear," with a silent T. Sounds French. For the White House, which likes to invite Americans who have a connection to the guest of honor's country, that made him a natural for the Hollande event.

Except Colbert isn't French; the real pronunciation of his name is "Cole-Bertt."

In the late 70s, President Jimmy Carter held a state dinner for the Japanese prime minister, but failed to invite Norman Mineta, the Japanese-American congressman. White House aides later said they had thought Mineta was Italian-American. To this day, Mineta, who later became secretary of transportation, tells the story, shaking his hand with a mock Italian expression.

Shaquille O'Neal should keep close watch on his mailbox if the administration announces a state dinner for the Irish president.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.)

To contact the writer of this article:
Al Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net.

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Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net.