Found in Translation: Some Names with Unfortunate Meanings

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Today brought strange news about France's new prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault: His surname means "penis" in Arabic. As a result, France's foreign ministry issued a statement informing the Arab press that the letters L and T would be added to the transliteration of his name, Bloomberg's Gregory Viscusi and Nayla Razzouk report.

Though it rarely causes an international incident, peoples' names have long had humorous phonetic meanings or NSFW translations in foreign languages. Take these for instance:

Meet the "Fokkers" 

The surname is funny enough to be a multimillion dollar movie franchise but in the Netherlands, the surname "Fokker" is actually quite common.

Meet Germany's Challenged Political Candidate 

This candidate from Germany's Freie Wählergemeinschaft party may do well in his homeland but probably won't be a crossover success in the States.

Meet the Russians with an Anatomical Surname

Nobody blinks about the surname "Vagina" in Russian. I mean, what's so funny?

Meet Pakistan's "Biggest Dick" Ambassador

In 2010, the international press picked up a story that Saudi Arabia rejected Pakistan's newly-appointed ambassador Akbar Zeb because when translated his name means "biggest dick" in Arabic.  In the end, the story was a little too good to be true: Saudi Arabia did no such thing but it was a good laugh nonetheless. 

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Meet the Unfortunate Kid You Went to Grade School with

Plenty of Latino men go by the name "Jesus," which shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone. But every once and awhile you get a surname combo that can throw you.

Meet France's New "Penis" Prime Minister 

After the correction was made to Ayrault's last name, things seem to be going well, Bloomberg reports:

An Nahar, a Beirut-based newspaper, chose [the L and T] 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.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.