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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

François Hollande renames Kobane, "Konabe"

Even if you're not especially interested in what's making the news, the chances are that you've heard of Kobane.

The town on the border of Syria and Turkey has been the scene of fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish defenders for the past month and has received extensive coverage internationally.


So you would think that leaders from around the world would not only be familiar with what's happening there but would also be able to say the town's name properly.

All right, there might be differences in spelling, accents and stress between different languages (and those helpful people at Wikipedia provide a few alternatives) but there's surely consensus as to the order in which both the letters and the three syllables come.

Right?

Wrong.

Not, apparently, if you happen to be the French president, François Hollande.

François Hollande at the Institut du monde arabe (screenshot from Le Petit Journal on Canal +)


Proving once again that he is a verbal law unto himself, Hollande managed to mangle the town's name not once, but twice, during and after a speech he gave at the Institut du monde arabe (Arab World Institute) on Tuesday.

Kobane in Hollande-speak became Konabe.

And both he and his advisors seemed oblivious to the fact that he couldn't pronounce the town's name correctly.

You can hear Hollande's gaffe from 12 minutes 45 seconds until 13 minutes 45 seconds - the  "L'instant président" segment of the "Le Petit Journal" on Canal + with host Yann Barthès broadcast on Tuesday evening.

Classic Flanby...unless, as Barthès pointed out, Hollande really was referring to the village of Konabe in Japan (yes, it exists).

Now that brings back memories.

Wasn't it in Japan back in June 2013 that Hollande, while wanting to pay tribute to the 10 Japanese nationals who had died in the Algerian hostage crisis in January of the same year actually expressed his condolences to the Chinese?

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