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New French PM's name causes Arab giggles

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from CNN...

New French PM's name causes Arab giggles

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.

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.


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Well, it could be worse: he could go through Junior High in the southern U.S. and have the name "Joe Dickless" or something.

As god is my witness, an acquaintance of mine (who was a pretty tough juvenile delinquent that wound up in the state boy's school and eventually prison) was named "Glen Boner." (At least his first name wasn't Richard.)

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Ayrault in French would be pronounced the same as héros "hero" or... Éros, the Greek god of love. They're all pronounced, "ay-roh," "é-rô." The Éros connection might possibly be related to the origin of the Arabic slang term, I don't know, since Arabic is not related to Greek at all.

It is probably news to Monsieur Ayrault, whose family name would not cause anyone French to think his name sounded like a word for penis.

I can sympathize. Since my name's Ben, I heard the "How long have you...Ben Gay?" joke many times.

At least it wasn't Dick Long, Short, Shaft, or Dick Hardwin. Richard is a fine name, but the nickname needs to be Rick(y). Willy... also could be problematic in certain, uh, circles.... -- By the way, "Hardwin" just means, "hardy friend, brave friend." Fine name.

Akbar Zeb, huh? I'm guessing boys named Zebulon and so forth would have some trouble in that part of the world.

Yes, I'm having far more fun with this than I probably should. Ah well.

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Howard Stern loves to air "phony phone calls" where they call up people and ask to speak to Heywood Jablowme, Hugh G. Rexyun, and stuff like that. Aaaaa, it's funny when he does it.

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We had a prankster in an office where I once worked, ( I think it was on a Tuesday when I actually did any work); anyway said prankster left a note for the company secretary to ring a Mr. Lyon, urgently on a certain phone number. Of course, the secretary came back from lunch, read the note and immediately rang the number.

"Can I speak to Mr. Lyon, please," asked the secretary.

"Sorry," said the voice at the other end of the phone, "Mr. Lyon is busy eating Miss Cow...you've rung the zoo." Click!

Needless to say the secretary was not amused.

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