New French PM's name causes Arab giggles
May 18, 2012 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
- Jean-Marc Ayrault's last name sounds like a rude word in Arabic slang
- Arab broadcasters are trying to figure out how to handle the name on air
- We "have to deal with it" and be professional, an Al-Arabiya editor says
Abu Dhabi, UAE (CNN) -- France's new Socialist government is already causing ripples throughout a Europe struggling to balance government budgets without making ordinary people's lives miserable, but it has created a completely different problem in the Middle East.
The prime minister's last name, it turns out, sounds like an Arabic slang word for penis.
His name is Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Pronounced properly in French, the last name is very much like a moderately rude Lebanese and Palestinian term that is widely understood in the Arabic world.
The name has left broadcasters trying to determine if they should pronounce it as the prime minister does -- "ai-roh" -- or if they should resort to voicing the "L" and "T" in the written word.
Hollande sworn in as French president
An editor at the pan-Arabic network Al-Arabiya said the network would pronounce the name in the French way.
"We cannot change names, so we have to deal with it and live with it. We have to be professional," said the editor, who asked not to be named because of the subject matter.
Al-Arabiya is writing the name in Arabic in a way that makes clear it is not the offensive word.
CNNArabic decided to pronounce Ayrault's name by voicing the last two letters in the written word.
The French Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the issue but had no comment. The office of the French president, sounding amused, referred CNN questions to the prime minister's office, which had no comment.
The story echoes reports that two years ago, Pakistan wanted to appoint an ambassador to Saudi Arabia whose name sounds like an even more offensive word for penis in Arabic.
But Pakistani diplomat Akbar Zeb denied the story, telling the Globe and Mail in Canada, where he is posted, that there had never been a plan to send him to Riyadh.
CNN's Rachel Ramsay contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
Today's five most popular stories