05/22/2012 07:33 pm ET | Updated May 23, 2012

Jean-Marc Ayrault's Name In Arabic Creates Awkward Situation

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.


Jean-Marc Ayrault