Without any attempt at double entendre, it could only be described as a slip of the tongue. The former French justice minister, Rachida Dati, 44, has become an overnight internet sensation after accidentally using the word "fellation" instead of "inflation" in a television interview.
A clip of her mistake has become one of the most viewed items on the French-language internet. The former minister, now a Euro MP, was talking about job losses at Lejaby, a foreign-owned French company which specialises in lingerie.
"These foreign investment funds are only interested in excessive profits," she said. "When I see some of them demand a return of 20 or 25 per cent, when fellation is almost non-existent... I say they are just trying to destroy businesses."
Ms Dati showed no sign of being aware of her lapse and pressed on with her interview with Anne-Sophie Lapix on Dimanche Plus, a current affairs show on the Canal Plus cable channel. Within minutes, a clip had been posted on Daily Motion, the French version of YouTube.
Asked about the incident in a radio interview yesterday, Ms Dati burst into laughter. "I was told about it afterwards," she said. "I was just speaking a little too quickly but if I've given everyone a laugh, then that's fine."
On her Facebook page, Ms Dati also referred to the slip but said that it was a "pity that this was the only political message that has emerged on such an important subject".
Ms Dati, an unelected protégé of President Nicolas Sarkozy, was catapulted into one of the biggest jobs in the French government after his election in 2007. The daughter of Moroccan and Algerian immigrants, she became the first person from a North African background to hold an important cabinet post in France.
She gave birth to a child while minister for justice but refused to name the father. After a series of ministerial blunders, and after having fallen out with President Sarkozy, she was exiled to the European Parliament in 2009.
- THE INDEPENDENT