Sunday, October 5, 2008

Eat 'em up

Not law-related but diplomacy-related. Reuters reports that France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, speaking in English, caused a bit of a row when he was understood to say to an Israeli interviewer, "I honestly don't believe that it will give any immunity to Iran ... because you will eat them before."

He later explained that he was not contemplating Israeli consumption of Iran, only an illegal aerial bombing. Apparently he had meant to say "hit", but what came out, because French phonology has a highly ranked constraint against initial [h], and lacks the lax high front unrounded vowel that English uses in the word "hit", sounded like "eat."

The ministry clarified that Kouchner "regrets the unfortunate misunderstanding this phonetic confusion has caused." The confusion was of course phonological, not phonetic.

In a possible world consistent with consistency in behavior from major propaganda agencies, we will soon witness a propaganda offensive from the MEMRI hole, saying France calls for Iran to be wiped off the map.