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French President Emmanuel Macron finds Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull's wife "delicious", and no one can handle it

While the French word to describe a tasty meal is délicieux, it can also be used to refer to something "good" or "agreeable", in the sense of "delightful".
UPDATED FEB 13, 2020
(L-R) French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Source: Getty Images)
(L-R) French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Source: Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday committed a humorous faux pas that cracked up his Australian audience.

Macron is on a diplomatic visit to Australia to discuss pressing issues such as defense and climate change.

However, the president's immaculate hold over the English language failed him while he was delivering a vote of thanks towards Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, reported Yahoo News.

"Thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome, the perfect organization of this trip," he said.

"Thanks to you and Lucy, thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister," he added before the two leaders shook hands.

 Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (centre right) and President of France Emmanuel Macron (centre left) meet with military personnel on the HMAS Canberra at Garden Island on May 2, 2018 In Sydney, Australia. Macron arrived in Australia on May 1 on a rare visit by a French president with the two sides expected to agree on greater cooperation in the Pacific to counter a rising China. (Photo by Brendan Esposito - Pool/Getty Images)

The audience watching the press conference were left confused whether Macron had committed a little lèse majesté or he actually meant the words he uttered.

But recordings of his speech confirmed that the president had referred to Mrs. Lucy Hughes Turnbull as "delicious." Hughes is the chief of the Greater Sydney Commission and a recipient of the Order of Australia.

However, the verdict appears to be out over whether it was an odd, but deliberate play on words or a linguistic slip-up.

While the French word to describe a tasty meal is délicieux, it can also be used to refer to something "good" or "agreeable", in the sense of "delightful". So Macron had chosen the word he wanted, but the audience could not catch the meaning he wanted to imply.

Mr Macron, centre, with Mr and Mrs Turnbull at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Mick Tsikas-Pool/Getty Images)

Macron's command over the English language is otherwise considered to be flawless. Just a week before the slip-up, he had addressed the US Congress in Washington DC in English.

During his US address, Macron earned a standing ovation and the praise of many on social media for his eloquence. His speech even included some puns and jokes.

The French language shares many homophones with English, but some do not mean what one might generally think. Linguists call these words "false friends" and can lead to misunderstandings in a conversation.

For instance, to be "encensé" does not means to be incensed, but showered with praise. In the UK, French motorists are often confused about warnings of "soft verges", which means "male organs" in their native language.

To "dresser" someone or something means to tame them and not clothe them with garments.

Finally, you shouldn't tell your French boss that you're "excité" at the idea of working with them unless you want to get fired: in French, it means you are sexually aroused. Also, the world "promiscuité" has no sexual connotation - it just means unwanted proximity, reports the BBC.

Macron's linguistic faux pas was by no means the first time a leader experienced problems with translation.

The most infamous gaffe was arguably John F. Kennedy's legendary statement "Ich bin ein Berliner", which could mean "I'm a Berliner" or "I'm a doughnut". 

Back in 2009, Pierre Lellouche, France's Europe minister branded former UK Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge to reclaim EU powers "pathetic", thereby sparking a diplomatic incident. The French equivalent to the term is often translated as "touching", "poignant" or "moving".

Some experts assert that one simple solution for foreign dignitaries would be to avoid the English language altogether.

Like in the case of Philippe Léglise-Costa, France's ambassador to the EU, who walked out of a meeting with fellow EU envoys in Brussels in disapproval at the use of English, last week.

He allegedly exclaimed: "Monsieur, Non!"

That being said, Macron's slip-up on Wednesday was quickly forgiven by Prime Minister Turnbull, who smiled and shook hands with his French counterpart.