"I Am a Jelly Donut" and 7 Other Embarrassing Diplomatic Faux Pas

Fifty years after John F. Kennedy’s historic “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, the quote still curls a slight smile of amusement for anybody with a basic proficiency in the German language.

For those not in the know the grammatical use of “ein” turned Kennedy's phrase from meaning “I am a Berliner” to “I am a jelly donut,” known in Germany as a “Berliner.”

However, in all fairness Kennedy wasn’t the last world leader to make a diplomatic faux pas and here are some of the world’s embarrassing and slightly hilarious diplomatic moments.

1) Jimmy Carter Desires the Polish 


In 1977, President Jimmy Carter visited Poland as part of a state visit and his translator mistranslated Carter’s words. Carter said he wanted to “learn about the Polish people’s desires for the future,” but was translated as he “desired the Polish people and wanted to touch their genitals.” Carter’s translator Steven Seymour made another faux pas by later translating Carter’s words into Russian, not Polish, something quiet sensitive for a nation struggling under the Soviet Union. I don’t think Seymour had a job anymore after they got back stateside.

2) Touchy Feely George W. Bush

  

At the 2006 G8 Summit, George W. Bush’s attempts to “relax” German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a shoulder rub did not go down very well. The look on their faces is priceless.

3) Kevin Rudd Orgasmic For the Chinese

 

Recently returned Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a student of the Chinese language and previously served as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. In slip of the tongue speech he spoke in Chinese and said “Australia and China are enjoying simultaneous orgasms in their relationship.” At least he gets points for giving them more then one.

4) Prince Phillip’s Spear Sharp Tongue


Known for making many public gaffs, the Queen’s husband Prince Phillip cause offense when he visited Australia in 2002 and ask a group of Australian Aboriginals “do you still throw spears at each other?” The comments were seen as being very insensitive. They may not be throwing spears at each other, but we do know one person they are prepared to throw them at now.

5) Silvio Berlusconi jealous of Obama’s “tan”

 

Probably the only man known for more verbal vomit then Prince Phillip. The then Italian Prime Minister landed himself into a bit of hot water when he described President-elect Barack Obama back in 2009 as being “young, handsome and tanned”. He’s also caused controversy claiming that he “wooed” Finnish President Tarja Halonen, and publicly described then Danish Prime Minister, now NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen as being “the best-looking prime minister in Europe” and adding “He's so good looking, I'm even thinking of introducing him to my wife."

6) Whatever You Do, Don’t Touch the Queen!


First Lady Michelle Obama caused a little media storm in the U.K. during her husband’s first official state visit there. During an official meet and greet with her Majesty, Michelle Obama breached protocol by placing her hand on the Queen’s back (intended purely as a friendly gesture). Don’t feel so bad Michelle; you’re not the first person to make this gaff. Both former Prime Ministers of Australia John Howard and Paul Keating are guilty of the same mistake. The latter in fact placed his hand on her Majesty’s waist and was subsequently dubbed “The Lizard of Oz” by the British press.

7) Geroge Bush Vomiting Incident


During a state visit to Japan, George Bush Sr. became violently ill during a state dinner at the home of Japanese Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa and proceeded to be sick on the Japanese PM. To make matters worse the entire incident was caught video and shown the world over. Was it some bad sushi?

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Steven Bywater

Steven Bywater is an alumni of the University of Leeds and Nankai University with a background in international marketing and Asian studies. Based in London, he works as a marketing professional on the commerical side for the European and African operations of one of China's largest state media agencies. Of English, Dutch-Afrikaans and Taiwanese-Chinese heritage, Steven has traveled the world and worked across Asia, Australia and Europe. His current projects includes bringing Chinese media in line with internationally recognised circulation auditing procedures and to develop both print and digital Chinese media products for overseas markets.

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