Frenchman: President Nicolas Sarkozy
Occasion: signing of defence pact between the UK and France, 2 November 2010
Oh mon dieu! What a gaffe! French president Nicolas Sarkozy unwittingly (or perhaps not?) committed the ultimate faux pas yesterday when he stated that the military co-operation pact he had just signed was with an entity known as ‘England’, which, as we know, has no legal personality to enter into such deals. In fact, Sarkozy corrected himself, saying first ‘Great Britain’ and then ‘England’ to make the point clear to his ‘Gallic’ audience.
Fortunately, the voice-over translation kicked in to ‘correctly’ correct this unfortunate oversight and relayed Mr Sarkozy’s words to the British audience as referring to ‘Britain’ only. However, I can’t resist quoting Mr Sarkozy’s words in full. Pardon my French.
Didn’t the man realise that, by saying the unspeakable in this way, he was endangering the very entente militaire he had just put his name to? But it seemed that France’s commitment to the accord was about more than the British pragmatism that David Cameron made his theme, but was indeed about a friendly rivalry and mutual self-interest between France and England. As the president went on to jest:
M***e! It’s that word again! But fortunately, the British diplomatic service and media glossed over these linguistic indiscretions, so that the British public wouldn’t be aware of them .
For my part, I’ve got renewed respect for Mr Sarkozy. At least he realises that le perfide Albion is still a force – but perhaps not a military one – to be reckoned with!