The funny thing about Putin, is that it means “whore” in French

True story.  Every time I try to talk to a Frenchman about Vladimir Putin, and his crackdown on gay and trans people, I keep inadvertently referring to him as “Vladimir Whore.”

It’s not intentional, though I enjoy the irony of it.

You see, in French, they spell and pronounce Putin’s name “Poutine.”  Like “routine,” but with a P.  I always forget that funny French spelling, and, well, it’s caused some problems.

You see, if you’re an anglophone and you try to pronounce the name “Putin,” not realizing that here it’s spelled “Poutine,” you turn back to your old trusty French phonetic lessons.  First rule is that “Pu” is pronounced kind of like “poo” in English, but it’s a much sharper “oo” sound. Then you look at the end of the word, see “tin,” and you know that in French the “in” would turn instead into a nasal sound like the “o” in “on,” and you’d drop the “n” all together.  So, last night, while talking to a friend about gays in Russia, I did just that.  I relied on my trust phonetics lessons and called the Russian leader “Vladimir poo-TO,” which actually means “Vladimir Whore.”

It can also mean “f*ck” and lots of other nasty things.

It’s not the first time I’ve had a bit of a blip with my French.  I remember the first time I went into a grocery story to buy some duck pâté, which I discovered here when I was 19, and adore to this day.  I went up to the butcher and instead of asking for “pâté de canard,” I asked if he had any “pâté de connard.”  The man laughed heartily because the adorable foreigner had just asked for some “asshole pâté.”

Which got me thinking of a wonderful video an expat here did about the word “putain” and all of its various uses in French.

putain-video

It’s a funny little video, and worth a watch:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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