October 5, 2008 / 2:05 PM / 11 years ago

Dropped "h" causes trouble for France's Kouchner

PARIS (Reuters) - A dropped ‘h’ landed English-speaking French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in trouble on Sunday after he was mistakenly quoted as saying Israel could gobble up Iran if it wanted to.

“I honestly don’t believe that it will give any immunity to Iran ... because you will eat them before,” Kouchner was quoted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper as saying in an interview about the possibility of Tehran gaining a nuclear weapon.

But the French Foreign Ministry issued a brief statement later saying Koucher had said ‘hit’ — meaning carrying out a surgical pre-emptive strike — rather than ‘eat’.

“He regrets the unfortunate misunderstanding this phonetic confusion has caused,” the ministry said.

The letter ‘h’ is silent in French and many French people inadvertently drop it when speaking English.

The foible gave rise to the “Allo, Allo” title of a British Broadcasting Corp television comedy about wartime France and colours the accent of the blundering Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films.

Reporting by Marcel Michelson and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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