When Francois Hollande appointed Jean-Marc Ayrault prime minister of France last Tuesday, news of the new PM's name rippled through the Arabic-speaking world.
The pronunciation of the prime minister's name, it turns out, "refers to the male sexual organ in several Arabic dialects."
In other words, slang for penis.
Prime Minister Ayrault, whose name is roughly pronounced ai-roh in French, had anchors on Arabic-speaking news stations squirming in their seats last week. According to Bloomberg, some skittish organizations tried to avoid saying or printing his name by using slightly altered transcriptions or referring to Ayrault by his first name only.
France's foreign ministry reportedly realized the unfortunate coincidence and quickly issued a statement suggesting a different transliteration in Arabic.
Ayrault is not the first to have his name desecrated abroad. The French themselves avoid calling the Russian president a whore by writing Vladimir Putin's last name as "Poutine." Quite polite, indeed.
Pierre-Rene Lemas, new secretary general of the Elysee Palace, announces the nomination of Jean-Marc Ayrault as new Prime Minister, Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Outgoing French prime minister Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope, right, pose with new prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, second from left, and his wife Brigitte, left, at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, Wednesday May 16, 2012. France's new prime minister, a moderate Socialist with an affinity for Germany who will no doubt be quickly pressed into service to tend to the nation's all-important relationship with Berlin, took office Wednesday.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault waves as he arrives for the first weekly cabinet meeting with new President Francois Hollande, Thursday, May 17, 2012, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
France's new Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault sits in his office, at the Hotel Matignon, in Paris, Thursday May 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Mayor of Nantes and newly-appointed French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, center, pays a vendor as he goes shopping with his wife Brigitte Ayrault, left, at the Indre marketplace, near Nantes, western France, on May 20, 2012, during his first visit after his appointment, May 19, 2012. (FRANK PERRY/AFP/GettyImages)
France's newly-appointed Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault poses for photographers at the Hotel Matignon on May 17, 2012, in Paris. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/GettyImages)
French President Francois Hollande, center, poses with his ministers after the first weekly cabinet meeting on Thursday, May 17, 2012, at the Elysee Palace in Paris. First row from the left: Housing Minister Cecile Duflot, Environment minister Nicole Bricq, Education Minister Vincent Peillon, Social Affairs minister Marisol Touraine, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, President Hollande, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Finance Miister Pierre Moscovici, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, Minister for Productive Recovery Arnaud Montebourg. Second row from the left: Deputy Justice Minister Delphine Batho, Deputy Education minister George Pau-Langevin, Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron, Public sector minister Marylise Lebranchu, Women's Rights minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippeti, Labor Minister Michel Sapin Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, Research Minister Genevive Fioraso, Agriculture Minister Stephane le Foll, Minister for Overseas territories Victorin Lurel, Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac and Minister in charge with Relations with the Parliament Alain Vidalies. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)