Ron DeSantis pronounces his surname differently on different occasions. There is no clear pattern. The Florida governor and 2024 Republican presidential primary candidate sometimes says “Deh-Santis” and sometimes “Dee-Santis.” That caught the attention of local media first, then national outlets picked up on it. The latest public figure to criticize him has been Donald Trump, who also frequently changes both of DeSantis’ first and last names to try to ridicule him.
Even as his Twitter campaign launch with Elon Musk was getting off to a bad start, the candidate posted his first campaign video, which ended with him pronouncing his last name clearly as Dee-Santis, despite the fact that he is commonly referred to by the media as “Deh-Santis.” Is the media wrong? It’s not that simple: he himself has pronounced it Deh-Santis numerous times.
The first media outlet to publicly draw attention to this discrepancy was the local newspaper Tampa Bay Times in 2018, when DeSantis was first running for governor. “Even if he becomes the 46th governor of Florida, we may never figure out the biggest mystery of all: how the hell do you pronounce his name?” they wrote, after pointing to, among other things, an election video of the candidate in which he clearly said “Ron Dee-Santis” and another famous video from that same campaign in which his wife called him “Ron Deh-Santis.”
The confusion has continued over time. In a 2012 campaign video to run for the House of Representatives, the speaker called himself Ron Dee-Santis. But when he took office in 2016, he was running as Ron Deh-Santis. When the governor addressed Americans for Thanksgiving last year, he did so as “Ron Deh-Santis,” but that same month, in a speech over the Indian festival Diwali, he was “Dee-Santis” again. There are many other examples.
His wife, Casey DeSantis, has been more faithful to a single pronunciation and uses her husband’s last name, which she herself has adopted, as Deh-Santis. The voiceover of the ad campaign she starred in in 2018 also pronounces her name as Deh-Santis. The first lady of Florida made another video about who Ron DeSantis is, in which she gets emotional and clearly says DeSantis three times with a “Deh.” It remains to be seen if now that her husband has launched his campaign for president as “Dee-Santis,” she will change her pronunciation as well.
DeSantis is an Italian surname, a language in which the vowel is pronounced as it is written, so in this case Deh. But last names with Di are also common in Italian, such as Di Caprio, Di Marco, Di Francesco... When the governor of Florida says Dee-Santis, it sounds as if he is doing an Anglo adaptation. Many surnames, on the other hand, were misspelled when Italian immigrants came to the United States. There would be reasons, therefore, to defend either one of the pronunciations. The strange thing is to use both.
Trump, who has said his rival in the Republican primaries “needs a personality transplant,” has taken the opportunity to attack him again. The former president, who is fond of monikers, is already calling his rival Ron DeSanctimonious, or sometimes Ron DeSanctus. And he has also jumped on the fact that a British media outlet misspelled his name as Rob DeSantis. Calling him “Rob” is Trump’s way of saying that he is a nobody, whose name is not even well known.
DeSantis’ different pronunciation of his own last name was too good for his rival to let go of: “Have you heard that ‘Rob’ DeSanctimonious wants to change his name, again? He is demanding that people call him DeeeSantis, rather than DaSantis. Actually, I like ‘Da’ better, a nicer flow, so I am happy he is changing it. He gets very upset when people, including reporters, don’t pronounce it correctly. Therefore, he shouldn’t mind, DeSanctimonious?” he wrote on his social network on Wednesday.
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