By Gregory Viscusi and Nayla Razzouk – May 16, 2012 5:04 PM GMT+0400
France’s new prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was chosen in part for his fluent German, is proving to be a headache in Arabic.
When spoken, his family name is colloquial Arabic in many countries for the third-person singular possessive form of the male sex organ.
The potential for embarrassment prompted France’s foreign ministry to put out a statement today as Ayrault took office with the recommended spelling in Arabic. The official solution would add the letters L and T to the transliteration. Arabic is a phonetic language where normally all letters are pronounced, unlike French where these two letters in “Ayrault” are silent.
An Nahar, a Beirut-based newspaper, chose that solution. Al Hayat, a London-based newspaper widely considered a reference across the Arab world, published a front-page headline chopping Ayrault’s name to “Aro,” when a more correct transcription would be “Ayro.”
A U.A.E.-based Arabic-language channel has sent an internal note to its journalists, asking them to write his name as “Aygho.”
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