Memo to White House: Colbert Isn't French

TV host's persona gets coveted invitation to a state dinner. 
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.)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.