Nikki Haley and the Burden of an Unpronounceable Name

Sept. 29 2022

Last week, the American talk-show host Sunny (née Asunción) Hostin attacked the former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley as a “chameleon” who chose “not to embrace [her] ethnicity” because she does not use her given first name, Nimrata. Nachama Soloveichik comments:

Meanwhile, racist trolls on the right often use “Nimrata” to try to paint Nikki as un-American. All of these people should have done their research. It turns out, “Nikki” is Nikki’s given name. It is a Punjabi name meaning “little one” and is listed on her birth certificate. Nikki is the name she has gone by since she was a little girl—long before any political aspirations.

I work in a public role as a political spokesperson. My name has been in hundreds of articles. I spend a good portion of my life on the phone saying “N as in Nancy, A as in apple, C as in cookie, H as in hat, A as in apple, M as in Mary, A as in Apple.”

At work, I go by “Nahama.” It’s not because I’m ashamed of my name, but because it makes my life easier and the lives of people around me easier. . . . Names are funny. They can tell us a lot about a person or not much at all. In my case, my name tells you about my ancestors and my religion. My last name—which means “little nightingale” in Russian—tells you about my paternal ancestor’s general geography. But names can also be deceptive. Soloveichiks as a clan, it turns out—from my family at least!—are rarely little and not very good singers.

I have adopted a carefree attitude about the predictable awkwardness. I don’t insist on people pronouncing my name correctly or get upset when they inevitably don’t. If I did, I would be upset 80 percent of my life, and that seems like a poor life choice.

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Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship