Pete Buttigieg, the all-but-official Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend mayor, likes to have fun with a common question: How to pronounce his last name. Head over to his campaign website, for example, and you’ll be invited to purchase shirts reading BOOT-EDGE-EDGE.
Mayor Pete, as he’s known to his fans, has a similar pronunciation guide on the bio of his Twitter page. His husband Chasten, meanwhile, tweeted back in December how to say the tongue-twister of a name. According to Chasten Buttigieg, it can also be pronounced as “Buddha-judge” or “Boot-a-judge.”
A viral Twitter video last month from “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” staffer Aaron Nemo also helped explain the correct way to pronounce Buttigieg.
Pete Buttigieg is familiar with the confusion. “Does it worry you that nobody with a funny name like yours could ever get elected president?” Peter Sagal, the host of NPR’s comedy game show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” asked Buttigieg back in 2018.
“Around here it’s actually an asset,” Buttigieg replied. “This is a community, you know, a lot of East European settlement here in South Bend.”
The name Buttigieg doesn’t actually come from Eastern Europe, but rather Malta, where his father was born. According to an article in The Times of Malta, 76 percent of that country’s population shares the same 100 surnames.
“My surname, Buttigieg (Boot-edge-edge), is very common in my father’s country of origin, the tiny island of Malta, and nowhere else,” the mayor wrote in a 2016 Medium post.
The Times of Malta said that common Maltese surnames could be divided into three groups reflecting the island’s complex history: “Semitic (Arabic and Hebrew), Romance (mainly Italian, Sicilian, Spanish and French), and English (as well as Scottish, Irish and Welsh).”
Most Maltese people have a Semitic last name, linguist Mario Cessar told the paper, such as Abdilla, Borg, Zammit – or Buttigieg.
So there you have it. In case you’re wondering, Kirsten Gillibrand’s last name is pronounced with a soft-g sound, like “Jill-uh-brand.” And Kamala Harris’ first name is pronounced like “‘calm’-ala.”