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French PM shows his 'erotic' side on Korea trip

Ben McPartland · 25 Jul 2013, 14:35

Published: 25 Jul 2013 14:35 GMT+02:00

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Visiting French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault presented South Korean media with a novel headache on Thursday: how to transcribe his name.

The daily Chosun Ilbo, the country's widest-circulation newspaper, chose Korean script that signifies "erotic" while Yonhap news agency also used a translation that means "difficulty".

The French embassy in Seoul, which issued a statement on the arrival of the head of the French government in Korean, chose a neutral translation by omitting the letter "r".

Last year on a trip to North Africa Ayrault left Arabic-language media in a similar, though slightly more embarrassing, quandary.

Transcribed into Arabic from the French pronunciation of his name, "Ayrault" refers in several Arabic dialects to the male sexual organ.

To avoid calling the Prime Minister a "penis" the local media were forced to add an H in front of his surname and TV reporters pronounced the normally silent L and T at the end of his name to avoid embarrassment.

These problems also work both ways with a number of well known foreign names proving a problem for the French, most notably the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Story continues below…

The French have changed the spelling of Putin to "Poutine" which conspiracy theorists believe is so it not pronounced "putain" which in French can be translated as anything from "whore" to" f**k".

It's worth noting that Poutine is also a French Canadian dish consisting of friend potatoes, cheese and gravy. Perhaps more suitable for the strong man Russian president.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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