Motown legend Smokey Robinson has gone viral — but not for his music. The 80-year-old singer recently recorded a nice Chanukah message for a woman who used to live on his street in Detroit. But he botched one of his lines, and the flub has taken Twitter by storm.
It all started when Jeff Jacobson and his brother decided to get a video greeting from Robinson as a gift for their mom. The brothers used the Cameo app, which allows people to purchase short, personalized video shout-outs from celebrities.
"Hey Margo, how you doing? Surprise, surprise," Robinson says in the video for Jacobson's mom. He tells her he was contacted by her sons on Cameo to make the video for her. "They told me you used to live in Detroit across the street from me, and gosh, that's beautiful," he continues.
"Nice talking to you again, I guess," Robinson laughs. "But anyway, you're living in Vancouver now, and they wanted me to wish you happy Cha-noo-ka.
"I have no idea what Cha-noo-ka is, but happy Cha-noo-ka, because they said so," Robinson says cheerfully. "Anyway, God bless you, babe, and enjoy Cha-noo-ka!"
The brothers apparently spelled the name of the Jewish holiday as "Chanukah," rather than the perhaps easier to pronounce "Hanukkah," when they wrote their instructions for Robinson's Cameo. His mispronunciation sent social media users into hysterics.
Jacobson shared the video of Robinson on Twitter, explaining what happened. It received a flood of comments and retweets and now has more than 2 million views on Twitter.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, both spellings — Hanukkah or Chanukah — are correct. "In addition, more than 20 other variations are recorded," according to Britannica. Since Hebrew uses a different alphabet than English, the spelling of some words can vary in translation.
While Smokey's mispronunciation was funny, some people saw the positivity in the story. "As much as anyone might make fun of this, it teaches something great. Smokey gives well-wishes despite not knowing the holiday," one person tweeted. "Isn't that exactly the behavior we all want? A default setting to acceptance and goodwill even when we don't understand."
In a follow up tweet, Jacobson said the music icon "can pronounce it any way he damn well pleases."
"He is a true legend whose music has been with me since birth," Jacobson tweeted, tagging Robinson. "His kindness and generosity of spirit has already made this most-unusual 2020 Chanukah one of my family's most memorable. Also, my mom says hi."
After Robinson learned his original video went viral, he tweeted to Jacobson on Monday night: "In the spirit of 2020, I'm gonna need a do-over! Please DM me your mother's phone number so we can try this again," he wrote.
Jacobson also chose to use his newfound Twitter stardom to share the spotlight. "Hello to all my new friends! Happy Chanukah (however you choose to pronounce it) and Happy Holidays," he tweeted. "Please consider supporting the Greater Vancouver Food Bank this season supporting those of us most in need."