FRENCH PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy has startled, and amused, an audience of Alsatian farmers by referring to their region as "Germany".
Alsace has changed hands several times over the centuries. Tens of thousands of Alsatians still speak a dialect of German. The village where Mr Sarkozy was speaking - Truchtersheim - may not sound typiquement franais. All the same, Alsace, on the western bank of the Rhine, has been French for most of the last 350 years and part of France since 1945.
The President immediately recognised his blooper. Pointing at his head, he said: "Now you see why I am putting a lot of money into programmes on dependency."
As one uncharitable blogger pointed out yesterday, this was probably another verbal gaffe. What Mr Sarkozy meant to say was not "dependance" but "demence", or "dementia".
Mr Sarkozy had travelled to Truchtersheim to give his New Year address to the French farming community, an important constituency for the centre-right president in next year's presidential election.
While speaking of the need to ensure fair farming trade, he said that he was ready to accept "distortions of competition" with developing countries like China and India but not with Germany. He then went on: "I don't say that just because I am in Germany... er, because I am in Alsace. …