Star Trek legend George Takei may be a famous name, but not everyone seems to know how to actually pronounce that name. Despite being a star of stage, screen, and radio over the course of his long career, all too many fans still wonder how you are supposed to pronounce Takei’s last name. We have the final word here, so if you’re a fan who has ever wondered, “Is it Tak-AY or Tak-EYE?”…read on.
Takei Confirmed How You Say His Name on CBS
It's pronounced Ta-KAY, not Ta-KAI. But I don't mind Ta-KAI because that means "expensive."
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 20, 2011
Back in 2014, Takei appeared in CBS This Morning. However, some fans may have missed the information about his name, as it was captured during a backstage interaction.
Here is the candid backstage video from CBS This Morning‘s “Sounds of the Toyota Green Room”, which captures backstage interactions among guests and interviewers:
While this video is hardly the first time the actor has gone on the record about the correct way to pronounce “Takei” (more on that below), it’s notable that this is one of the only times Takei has expounded on why so many people tend to mispronounce his name.
In the clip, Takei theorizes that so many people struggle because of how that vowel pairing works in other languages: “It’s a Germanic pronunciation of the ‘ei’ [as in] Einstein.”
He added that he doesn’t “object” to the mispronunciation, since the word “takai” is a valid word in Japanese, and it means “expensive”. Takei apparently doesn’t mind being called expensive, at least by accident.
Given that Takei was placed in a Japanese internment camp as a child, its understandable that he would want to educate people on the correct way to pronounce his name, and to honor its traditional pronunciation, rather than adapt the pronunciation used by others.
Sadly, confusion still exists about how to pronounce this famous actor’s name, despite his level of celebrity. Further complicating matters: It appears that not all of Takei’s Star Trek co-stars are thoughtful in their pronunciation of George’s last name. Most notably, it appears William Shatner, TV’s Captain Kirk, really got under Takei’s skin with his wrong pronunciation.
Takei & Shatner’s Feud May Be Partially Due to Mispronunciation
Takei famously unloaded on Shatner during a 2006 Comedy Central Roast of Shatner, a clip of which is above.
During the Roast, Takei first jokingly referring to Shatner as a “fat alcoholic”, and then went on to state: “My name is George Takei. Not ‘TAKAI’, as you’ve insisted on pronouncing it for the last 40 years!”
To hammer home the point, Takei tossed in one final barb: “Remember: ‘Takei’. Like in ‘Toupee'”.
This is likely a reference to the long-running fan theory that Shatner wore a toupee or hairpiece while on Star Trek.
According to the New York Post, Takei claimed that Shatner ignore him on the set of Star Trek. More info about those claims can be found in Takei’s 1994 autobiography, To the Stars, which also claimed that Shatner may have had a hand in altering Star Trek film scripts, to Takei’s detriment.
Takei Has Some Unique Pronunciations of His Own
In addition to his time on Star Trek, Takei was also a regular on the Howard Stern Show for a period of time. In the clip above, Stern has some fun with Takei’s unique way of saying certain words, such as “guacamole” and “tsunami”.