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Smokey Robinson: “Happy CH-A-NUKA!”

The legendary singer goes viral after mispronuncing Chanukah

Smokey Robinson Chanukah Cameo Hanukkah video, photo via Twitter
Smokey Robinson, photo via Twitter
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Today is the fifth day of Hanukkah, the eight-day-long traditional Jewish festival that has been honored in homes around the world and in pop culture for hundreds of years. Many Americans are aware of the holiday, even if they don’t celebrate it themselves. Others are relatively unfamiliar with it, especially in its written form — and apparently the legendary Smokey Robinson is one of those people.

In a now-viral tweet, Robinson seems unfamiliar with the word “Chanukah”.

It all started when Twitter user Jeff Jacobson purchased a Cameo of Robinson as a gift for his mother. “My mom grew up on the same street as Smokey Robinson in Detroit. So for Chanukah, I wanted to reunite them via @Cameo,” he explained. “But the video takes a strange twist.”

The clip starts off relatively normal with a very charming Robinson greeting Jacobson’s mother. “Hey Margo!” he says with a big grin. “They told me that you used to live in Detroit across the street from me. Gosh, that’s beautiful. How you doin’ again? Nice talking to you again, I guess!” Dressed in a bright pink shirt and with his usual sparkling eyes, the Motown singer is radiating nothing but good vibes.

That’s when Robinson becomes confused by the written prompt Jacobson sent him, which typically requests what the celebrity should say in the video. “You’re living in Vancouver now and they wanted me to with you a happy Chanukah,” says Robinson. “I have no idea what Chanukah is, but happy Chanukah because they said so! Anyway, god bless you, babe, and enjoy Chanukah. Have a wonderful time.”

To be fair, it seems like Robinson is unfamiliar with the variety of ways in which Hanukkah can be spelled. The original Hebrew word is most commonly translated to English as Hanukkah (the preferred choice of Merriam-Webster due to the spelling) or Chanukah (another preferred choice based on pronunciation). Other variations include Ḥanukah, Chanuka, and Hanuka. They’re all pronounced the same way, but Robinson mistakenly pronounces Jacobson’s traditional spelling of Chanukah as “Chuh-nuu-kuhh”. It’s as jarring as hearing someone say “Chuh-rice-t-mus” instead of Christmas.

If Robinson wants to brush up on his Hanukkah history, he could always revisit the classic Adam Sandler hit “The Chanukah Song”. Or if he’s feeling something more rock-heavy, he could tune in to Dave Grohl’s new livestream series, The Hanukkah Sessions, where he and Greg Kurstin cover one Jewish musician every night of the eight-day holiday.

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