Owing to an unfortunate matter of translation, Pakistani diplomat Akbar Zeb will not become the next Pakistani ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Zeb’s credentials are impressive: he is the former envoy to the United States, India, South Africa and Canada. But despite his impressive career, his name proved to be an immovable hurdle.

When translated into Arabic, it means “Large penis”.

In a region that stresses modesty in public, this could not stand.

Akbar is a customary Muslim name meaning “great”, and while Zeb is not an uncommon Pakistani name, in Arabic it is a slang reference to the penis and never used in polite con

versation.

Obviously the diplomat’s Arab hosts felt that references to “His Excellency the Big Dick” would not go over well.

A Saudi cultural critic said, “The media wouldn’t dare to publish a name like this. So every time he would be in the media they would have to face the name issue, and it would make it difficult to work with him.”

That would be another embarrassment for Pakistan.

Said an analyst, “You cannot just pronounce that name. It’s too awkward.”

How would he be announced at events? How would he be written about?

David Kenner of Foreign Policy magazine wrote that the issue was a source of embarrassment for Pakistan. “One can only assume that submitting Zeb’s name to Arabic-speaking countries is some
unique form of punishment designed by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry,” he wrote, “Or the result of a particularly egregious cock- up.”

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