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French Government Bans Term 'E-Mail' 1094

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-le-words dept.
Licensed2Hack writes "'Goodbye "e-mail," the French government says, and hello "courriel" -- the term that linguistically sensitive France is now using to refer to electronic mail in official documents.' . Curriel? 'Hey Pierre, curriel me those sales figures.' Just sounds wrong!" Especially if you don't actually speak french ;)
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French Government Bans Term 'E-Mail'

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  • by sweeney37 (325921) * <mikesweeney&gmail,com> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:16AM (#6483849) Homepage Journal
    The more interesting fact is the word "courriel" was coined by a professor in Montreal [canoe.com].

    If the French are working so hard to keep their language pure, why did they deicde to use a word a French-Speaking Canadian came up with?

    Mike
    • "If the French are working so hard to keep their language pure, why did they deicde to use a word a French-Speaking Canadian came up with?"

      Uh, because the guy us a Francophone? It's still French whether it's in Canada or France. Mind you, there are definite differences between Quebec and France French, but they are still the same language.

      In QC, Anglophones are a hated minority. Everything is tilted to the advantage of the French. Anglo universities don't get any of the juicy funding that the French ones do and so on. It is illegal to put up a sign where French and English have equal prominence. It must be all French or the English must be smaller.

      Btw, there is no Canadian flag in front of the Quebec government buildings ;-)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:41AM (#6484022)
        Speaking as an Anglophone in Quebec, I think "hated Minority" is quite the overstatement. But hey, you can spread your ignorance however you want, I guess.
        • by big_pianist (563663) <big_pianist.gmx@net> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:58AM (#6484553)
          Speaking as another, more politically-and-culturally-minded anglophone in Quebec, for the benefit of all those on slashdot, while I agree that "hated minority" is an overstatement, it may not be too far off the mark and I would hardly call it igorance. It's an awareness. Not only are Anglophones in minority but they have fewer privilages with respect to their language than francophones. Anytime a government takes specific steps to inconvenience or discriminate against one group of people for reasons of beliefs, language, culture, etc, there is a problem.

          This is not a case of poor application of "linguistic" equal opportunity. Nor is this a case of poor reasoning, "Oh, look, we have more than twice as many francophones as anglophones, therefore the french type on all signs should be at least twice as large!" This is not even a case of ignorance on the part of the Quebec government -- No, these laws are clear, direct, were passed with intent, designed to be abused.

          Many laws specifically refer to english as it relates to french and many laws use the mother tounge of a citizen or of his parents as justification to alter the rules.

          Case in point, English public schooling is a perticularly sticky topic here in Quebec: It's all here [canoe.ca]. Many francophone parents are realizing that learning proper English is important in today's world. Not that we all won't still have our mother tounges, with which we can speak whenever we want, but for business and academics, for critical technical discussion, English is the prefered medium. But because of close-minded aspirations of nationalism and cultural purity, generations of governements here in Quebec have managed to legislate, against the will of many Quebecers, any purely francophone couple sending their children to English school. This is discrimination against potential anglophones. One of many. Immigrants are not permitted to study in English-language schools either.

          It is also wise to note that the Quebec laws are only operating under a loophole in Canadian law. Otherwise they would not be constitutional and certainly a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

          And if you're confused or maybe you disagree with my appraisal of the situation citing bais or prejudice, you need only look up a few choice addresses of either Levesque or Parizeau to get a good impression right from the horses mouth.
          • by Papineau (527159) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @02:29PM (#6485455) Homepage

            Minor nits on the status of English schools in Québec.

            Any private school is free to offer an English only curriculum, as long as they don't receive money from the government (the vast majority of private schools receive some, usually more than what parents pay per child, and not that far from what public schools receive).

            Also, children of parents who studied mostly in English in Canada (not only Québec) can attend public English school, which offer the same things (although in English rather than in French) than other French public school. Are there Spanish public schools in the southern US?

            Another point: all this applies to elementary and secondary schools only. College and up are not bound by those rules, so you're free to get your higher education in whatever language you want, even in public institutions.

            Two last things: please note that the teaching language is an object of debate here since quite a few years now, and that the main goal of the past and existing (and probably future) laws on the subject is to facilitate the integration of immigrants to the majority French-speaking population. And it's entirely possible to attend public French school and become quite accustomed to English, provided you practice outside. A second language practiced a few hours per week won't be perfected, you need much more practice in reading, listening, speaking and writing for that.

        • by dbretton (242493) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @12:01PM (#6484573) Homepage
          The term, "...hated Minority..." is a bit strong.

          A more appropriate phrase would be "culturally abandonded".

          The French-allying portion of Quebec is much like the Spanish speaking portions of Central America: They aschew their curtural ties to the US in attempt to identify themselves with (South American/European) counterparts. However, they simply end up becoming cultural bastards, belonging to neither.

          Other Canadians look at the 'French Canadians' as not really Canadians, and the French' look at the 'French Canadians' as not French.

          • by konmaskisin (213498) on Monday July 21, 2003 @02:29AM (#6488852) Journal
            The real "canadiens" were french speaking until about 150 years ago.

            The English residents of Canada considered themselves "British Colonial" subjects or English. - even until quite recently (witness the flag debate in the 1960s - very very heated and vitriolic exchanges). "Canadian" was a term almost exclusively synonymous with "french Canadian".

            Once French was crushed and destroyed as a viable language outside of Quebec and English Dominion Subjects began to refer to themselves as Canadian - French Canadians in Quebec (in conjunction with the "Quiet Revolution" and growing nationalism) were driven to culturally disociated themselves from the term adopting instead the term "Québecois".

            Vive le Québec.
      • "Uh, because the guy us a Francophone? It's still French whether it's in Canada or France."

        Not really. From what I've heard, and to say the least, France does not like Quebec french. It is surprising that they're using a term coined by a guy in Montreal.
        • Are you kidding ? We love the Quebec accent :-) sometimes they use some words we could find funny, but that's it. I never heard somebody saying that he "does not like Quebec french". And really, people love Quebec (at least that's my point of view, and I think it's shared by a majority of french ! ). Mind you, a french-speaking country in the love-hated america's continent...
      • by EulerX07 (314098) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:32AM (#6484390)
        Total an utter slandering.

        Ever heard of McGill University in downtown Montreal? Go take a walk there, you won't feel like it's not getting it's "Juicy Share". If 80% of the students are french, don't it make sense that french universities get 80% of the funding. There is no "tilt", it's just common sense.

        If you don't know what the hell you're talking about, why do you bother talking about it, and why is this "informative".

        FYI, the english are not a hated minority. Go to Montreal yourself, go to a restaurant, and you WILL be served in english with a smile. If you go outside of Montreal (like real far, 100+miles) you probably will run into some places where they don't talk english, because they don't need to.

        I was born from francophone parents that were bilingual, and now I work anywhere from the southeast US to Northwest Ontario to the Maritimes. And I've been told in some backwater places that I shouldn't be allowed to speak french to my french technicians. But I don't judge every single anglophone because of a handful of bigot rednecks.

        Remember bigotry starts with ignorance and gross generalization, it's seems to be just fashionable when it's against french speaking people. Quebec and France history has been separated since about thirty years before France's Revolution. The people in France and Quebec have a radically different history in the past 243 years.
    • by Oniros (53181) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:25AM (#6483919)
      Actually there are lots of linguists in Quebec that works hard at defining French words for a lot of things that didn't have one.

      email => couriel
      BBS => babillard
      Frequently Ask Questions => Foire aux Questions

      I think it's perfectly legitimate for a language to have new words for new technologies/items and use words proper to the language rather than import words from other languages. That's what it is to be living language.

      English is pretty open into importing/incorporating any words (even abbreviations like WMD) in the language, but I don't believe most other languages on Earth are.
      • by bryanp (160522) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:36AM (#6483984)
        English is pretty open into importing/incorporating any words (even abbreviations like WMD) in the language, but I don't believe most other languages on Earth are.

        The Japanese are probably the most "acquisitive" linguists. If you don't believe me, ask the next Japanese person about it over a nice cold biru.
        • or just send them an E-meiru
        • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @12:43PM (#6484833) Homepage Journal
          A linguistics prof in one class that I once took illustrated this with a tome published several centuries ago by a Japanese scholar who was upset by the widespread "corruption" of the Japanese language by borrowings from Chinese. So he wrote a major work that documented the old Japanese language very thoroughly. His work is considered quite valuable by linguists today. The fun part was that his title consisted entirely of loan words from Chinese.

          The prof pointed out that this is difficult to do in English. Despite all the borrowings, it's still difficult to write more than 2 or 3 words in English without using a word of Anglo-Saxon origin. English is still at heart a West Germanic language, and all the "little" words are Germanic.

          And it is true that the Japanese continue this approach, but now with heavy borrowings from English. They mangle the pronunciation badly, but look at what English does to Latin or Greek words. And our borrowings from Hebrew and Arabic are hardly recognizable.

          Japanese and English are far from the only such cases. Swahili and Malay are both artificial "trade" languages that were constructed from several other languages of their respective areas, and they're about as much a mish-mash as is English.

          • English grammar is very similar to German. Its different enough to be a totally different language with its own grammar rules, but its pretty easy to see how English is derived from German (if you speak both; note I do not speak fluent German (getting close!)). Both languages share thousands of words and a fairly similar technical vocabulary. Most languages borrow some words, some languages more than others. In the American southwest, you can see English acquiring terms and words from Mexican Spanish, and m
            • by afidel (530433) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @07:58PM (#6487332)
              What's the most funny is when the French ban English words that are taken from French, like Fax, it is short for Faxcimile which derives from French, yet the French buerocrats decided to ban it from commercial speech! I think this was true of almost 1/3rd the "English" words they banned several years ago.
            • The Romans had a perfectly good word for 'king': rex. This is cognate with words like rajah in Indic languages, righ/rí in Irish gaelic and the suffix '-ric' in Early German names like 'Alaric'. For political reasons, rex became disparaged after Rome became a republic. Thus, when Julius Caesar et al became effective kings of Rome, they could not call themselves that, so they used a perfectly acceptable military term: 'commander' imperator. Julius' surname later became synonymous with the position as we
          • The french don't have a word for 'Entrepreneur'
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:45AM (#6484046)
        "I think it's perfectly legitimate for a language to have new words for new technologies/items and use words proper to the language rather than import words from other languages. That's what it is to be living language."

        No, its not normal. Normally, lanaguages evolve by their speakers, not by a government based commission.

        Still more proof that french culture is dead.
      • Word importing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cappy Red (576737) <miketoon@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:59AM (#6484152)
        English is probably more open to importing words from other languages because England was invaded several times in the middle ages(Normans, Vikings), and is populated with people originally from an area in northern Germany. Thus, English gets its Germanic roots, and large numbers of words from(or through) French and more German(Vikings spoke... something. Norse variant of German is as far as I got on short notice).

        This story is just goofy, though. "Mail [yourdictionary.com]" comes into English from French. "Courrier [yourdictionary.com]" came into French from Italian.(Electronic and variants come directly from Latin)

        Languages survive through the adoption of new words, whether they be homegrown or imported. Attaching more value for one method over the other is just silly.

        (More info [yourdictionary.com] on borrowed words in English. French and Norse invasions mentioned a few paragraphs from the bottom of the page.)


        *honk*
        • by WegianWarrior (649800) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @12:35PM (#6484780) Journal

          Most of the countires in northern europe speaks some branch of the germanic laungue-group (finnish and hungarian are the major exeption). The norsemen spoke - obviously as it may seem - a lingo often called norse, or old nordic. Even back then there was a noticable difference between what the swedes, the danes and we norwegians spoke. The old norweigans spoke a subvariant frequently called 'old norwegian' (yes, it is blindingly obvious), which were spread to Iceland, Greenland and the illfated colonies in Vinland (north america). In fact, the spoken language of Iceland is very close to the norse tounge.

          Useless fact; the english didn't have a seperate word for dying of hunger until the vikings had been visiting for a few years.

      • by Sanity (1431) * on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:03AM (#6484185) Homepage Journal
        I think it's perfectly legitimate for a language to have new words for new technologies/items and use words proper to the language rather than import words from other languages. That's what it is to be living language.
        Of course, but the question is whether the government should be in the business of controlling and regulating the use of that language, as the French government does. If the French language cannot survive in its current form without artificial government intervention, then its current form is not a "living" language at all - but a nostalgic fiction.

        I speak with some experience on this subject having grown up in the South of Ireland where almost all school children are forced to learn the virtually extinct language "Gaelic" from the ages of 4 to 18, spending similar amounts of time on it as they do with Maths or English. The result? Most people hate the language because they resent having it forced down their throats.

        Unless they are in a work of Orwellian fiction - governments have no business telling their populations what words they can and cannot use.

        • by Spankophile (78098) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:21AM (#6484314) Homepage
          The government is not "forcing" the French to use a different word for email. They are "promoting" the use of a different word.

          It's not so different from the US government promoting words and phrases like "Weapons of Mass Destruction" over "Unconventional Weapons." Or Surgical Strike over Decapitation Strike (or better yet, Assasination).

          Or my favourite of late (in Canada anyhow) is the use of "STI - Sexually Transmitted Infection" since the word "Disease" is apparently too stigmatising.

          They're not forcing anything on anyone, but if the sheep see it enough, they'll start using it themselves.
          • by dbretton (242493) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:52AM (#6484523) Homepage
            Apparently you did not read the article:

            "The Culture Ministry has announced a ban on the use of "e-mail" in all government ministries, documents, publications or Web sites, the latest step to stem an incursion of English words into the French lexicon. "

            Or perhaps, in French, 'le ban' is translated as, "it would be nice if you didn't do this"...

            This is simply another example of French arrogance, believing their language to be superior to other languages to the point that they fear its adultering by using (gasp) an English word!

            • Apparently you did not look close enough:
              "government ministries, documents, publications or Web sites"
              The French are free to use whatever word they want.
        • Of course, but the question is whether the government should be in the business of controlling and regulating the use of that language, as the French government does. If the French language cannot survive in its current form without artificial government intervention, then its current form is not a "living" language at all - but a nostalgic fiction.

          Of course they can. A government has the perfect right to say what words go into official government reports. They're not going to stomp out the word 'email'

    • Ah, those wacky French. There is a legend that their word vasistas (a little window on the roof or over a door), comes from when Napoleon's troops entered Germany and saw folks peering down from these windows screaming "Was ist das?" (what is that) at all the noise.

      So any time you receive a courriel just point at it, laugh, and say "Was ist das?"
    • It used to be "ml" (Score:5, Informative)

      by rsidd (6328) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @12:52PM (#6484877)
      They used to have a word "mél" (for "message electronique"), which was officially encouraged in place of email, the trouble is nobody used it. Courriel however is widely used, though until now unofficial. They also have official words for "web" and (I think) "internet" but nobody uses those either. The trouble with "email" is that it (or rather, "émail") already means "enamel" in French.
  • Well, why would they want to use an English word! Oh the shame!!!!
  • by sydlexic (563791) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:17AM (#6483861)
    we would now be calling it 'freedom mail'. while I think the french culture police are a bit over the top, the same can be said for a lot of people on capitol hill.
    • Except that i think that the 'freedom' movement never got mucsupport even in Capitol Hill. Now if french fries were orginally Iraqi fries, I think maybe the whole freedom thing would have caught on. After all it happened before in United states. Have you ever eaten Home Fries, remember that before the World War (1 or 2 i forget) they were called German Fries.
  • by jesco (598308) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:19AM (#6483873)
    Interesting, the submitter of this story didn't even manage to write courriel correct... despite it being displayed two lines above...
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:21AM (#6483883) Homepage Journal
    "Crossandwitch."
  • This is stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theefer (467185) * on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:22AM (#6483892) Homepage
    I speak french, and I just find this "oh-quick-translate-this-english-words" habit sickening. This word, courriel, is crap. It just sucks hard. (and you're lucky, this is not the worst!).

    I help translate the Gentoo Weekly Newsletter from english to french, but I'll really find me sick if I have to write courriel instead of email. English-speaking people don't bitch about "rendez-vous", "à propos", etc. This french habit is just arrogance.

    I'll keep using email, internet, web, thank you very much.
    • by mlush (620447) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:44AM (#6484036)
      English-speaking people don't bitch about "rendez-vous", "à propos", etc.

      Probably something to do with English being mostly made up of foreign words

      This french habit is just arrogance.

      To the French arrogance is not just a habit, its a way of life

    • Re:This is stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dalroth (85450) * on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:54AM (#6484114) Homepage Journal
      Hah, good, this is what I like to hear.

      It's not the fact that some people in France what to keep their language pure that bother's me (good for them, but good luck making it actually happen). What bothers me is when some govermnet agency decides to come in and start regulating this kind of thing (even if it isn't a law yet, it's only a matter of time if people don't fight back).

      When the government is telling you how you should speak, well, you've got a lot more serious problems then what to call an Email.
    • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:33AM (#6484399)
      I worked with a component engineer whose job was to scour the world for cheaper parts. If he could save a penny on resistors for just one product, he paid his own way. He had shelves of data books, and said the absolute last resort was the French books. German, even Japanese, he could at least make a preliminary stab at understanding, because they used the common English words, even if the rest was Greek (ha ha) to him. The French ones used so many artificial bogus terms that he had too much trouble with them.

      I always wondered how much business the French firms lost because their technical books were politically correct rather than useful.
    • by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @12:50PM (#6484870) Homepage
      "English-speaking people don't bitch about "rendez-vous", "à propos", etc. This french habit is just arrogance."
      From henceforth, please refrain from using the word rendzevous. Instead, please use the more patriotic "freedom meeting." Furthermore, please avoid using accenting characters in words like apropos and resume (a short account of one's career and qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position) as such accents give them an inappropriate, un-American character. By doing so, you will be doing your part to fight terrorism at home and abroad.

      Thank you,

      The Department of Homeland Security

    • by jc42 (318812) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @01:03PM (#6484945) Homepage Journal
      Some years ago, I read an article by a French scientist who explained why he wrote all his papers in English rather than in his native French.

      He explained that, as a scientist, one of his important tasks was helping devise good scientific terminology. The scientific community has come up with a very effective approach: If someone has good terminology for what you need, you use it rather than inventing your own. But if you can give a good reason why preceding terminology doesn't work well, you are not only allowed but expected to propose better terminology, and explain it in your paper.

      He went on to explain that, if he were to publish in French, any new terminology would have to get the approval of the government's language commission. It's highly unlikely that anyone in that body will understand his area of technical expertise, so their decision will almost always be wrong (in the scientific sense).

      But there is no such government angency in any English-speaking country. In English, there are no legal barriers to inventing your own terminology. So when he sees the need for a new word (or redefinition of an old word), he can just use it (and explain it) in his English paper. His colleagues in his area of research will be the judges of whether his new word (or redefinition) will be adopted.

      He also commented that he was far from the only researcher who used this approach, and the same argument is often heard in German. He suggested that, as long as the English-speaking world remains so open and free about "corruption" of the English language, it will remain the World's primary scientific language.

      So those who like the idea of English becoming the world's dominant language should applaud and encourage anti-English actions such as what the French are doing.

      • I'm quite amazed by these allegations... See, I work for a national laboratory in France, so I know quite a bit what it is to work as a scientist, and I can tell you that I can introduce new terminology without having some kind of government approval! (hey, I do science, I don't design government forms!). I publish what I want, basically.

        I publish my papers in English not because of some terminology problems but because of very simple realities: if I publish in French, I reduce my readership to French-spea
  • right. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:22AM (#6483894)
    In other news French legislation against junk e-mail has been delayed until the French can come up with a French sounding substitute for the word spam.
    • Re:right. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:43AM (#6484032) Homepage Journal
      paté
    • They already did... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Drakker (89038) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:47AM (#6484058) Homepage Journal
      It's "pourriel" which is a mix of courriel and "pourriture" (pourrie) which means "rotten".

      I dont knw if the term has been officialy accepted, but it's been pending for a few years now.
    • Re:right. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot@@@jawtheshark...com> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:05AM (#6484192) Homepage Journal
      Actually, the term I have mostly heard for SPAM would be "mail polluant". ("courriel polluant", it seems now) I think that's a very good description.

      Anyways, I have heard the term "courriel" years ago. It is not a new word, it is just not widely used. As for the matter, most languages I know don't use "e-mail". Usually we refer to "e-mail" as "mail". That can be quite confusing when talking to an english person. If you say "mail me it", they often look in a confused way like "what? by snailmail"?

      The only place where you will see "courriel" is in administrative documents. The general populace will stick to "mail" or "courrier éléctronique" (which *is* widely used)

      I don't think you can blame the French to try to keep a national identity by adapting their language. After all, they have words for about anything in IT. Think of "télécharger" (to download), or "ordinateur" (computer), or "carte graphique" (graphics card). The funniest one for me is "octet" instead of "byte", but that is mainly because I always thought that the difference between "octet" and "byte" is the bit-alignment.

  • by mgcsinc (681597) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:24AM (#6483908)
    I'm not quite sure whether it's clear to everyone here, but as much as the French may be nationalistic, their youth is hardly unaccostomed to borrowing from English, and if anyone thinks this is going to make a significant impact, they're probably mistaken, take it from someone living awefully close to France. Look even at the word download, important yet far less ubiquitous than e-mail - the term "telecharger" is used, but hardly always, and any avid French internet user will recognise "download" in a second... Had your "freedom fries" lately? What, you still call them french fries? Maybe a national lexicon isn't quite so easy to change...
    • I think comparing French and American government efforts on language. This isn't the fist time the French government has tried to fight the encroachment of English into the language, but here in the Estados Unidos we can't even agree on a national language.
  • Just sounds wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by radon28 (593565) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:24AM (#6483909)
    'Hey Pierre, curriel me those sales figures.' Just sounds wrong!

    Of course it sounds wrong... especially since the rest of it would probably sound more like:

    Hé Pierre, curriel je que ces ventes figure!

    You know, since they're in France, and everything.
  • by panurge (573432)
    Incroyable, mais la plupart du monde ne parle pas Anglais. Et, plus incroyable que ca, l'ONU n'a pas interdit l'utilisation des langues non-Anglais. L'axis du mal, on devrait ajouter ces singes qui aiment le fromage et se rend toujours. Et l'ONU, c'est un ami des terroristes qui voulait supprimer la langue de Dieu avec ces termes diaboliques. Quand on ecrit "courriel", on donne support a Osama Bin Laden

    This information brought to you by the French office of the Department of Homeland Security

    • The fish speaks (Score:2, Informative)

      by qwertyatwork (668720)
      Incredible, but the majority of the world do not speak English. And, more incredible than Ca, UNO did not prohibit the use of the languages not-English. The axis of the evil, one should add these monkeys which like cheese and always goes. And UNO, it is a friend of the terrorists who wanted to remove the language of God with these diabolic terms. When one writes "courriel", one gives support has Osama Bin Laden
  • If you this this is weird maybe you should listen to the Greek words for "browser" or "task bar" or many other computer terms. They are particularly bad because they were not made with simple translation in mind. But ,rather, they said "Hey , let's show off how vast our language is". The end result is that nobody uses the Greek terms and everyone unless it is accompanied with a great dose of humour. :)
    Too bad Greek uses a different alphabet and i can't give you an example.

    Apart from that. Why is this so

  • Qui les pensent-ils sont-ils, ces Français, pour dire nous comment parler?

  • compared to say (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalsushi (137809) * <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:28AM (#6483934) Journal
    English is cool. We cram every word we like into our lexicon. According to this site [askoxford.com], English is composed of the following:


    Latin, including modern scientific and technical Latin: 28.24%
    French, including Old French and early Anglo-French: 28.3%
    Old and Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch: 25%
    Greek: 5.32%
    No etymology given: 4.03%
    Derived from proper names: 3.28%
    All other languages contributed less than 1%


    I tried to find a word count for French vs. English lexicons, but unfortunately after about 15 googlings I came to the concensus that you can't count how big a lexicon is, only the number of words in a dictionary. I remember a high school teacher telling me that there are about 100,000 words in the French lexicon, though. English is a magnitude larger, and impossible to give a straight answer- do you include technical words? medical words? colloquial words?

    • I tried to find a word count for French vs. English lexicons, but unfortunately after about 15 googlings I came to the concensus that you can't count how big a lexicon is

      Wrong googling strategy. Here, let me help.

      According to this Google search [googlefight.com], English wins hands down.

      However, interestingly enough, that the French version [googlefight.com] shows a different result.

      Typically revisionist French. ;-)

    • Re:compared to say (Score:3, Informative)

      by hyphz (179185) *
      I think for that, though, you've got to love Japanese, which also seems to grab words from everywhere.

      "Ball" in Japanese is.. well, "Ball". "Bread" in Japanese is "Pan" - that's the french "pain". A part-time job is "arubaito" - that's the German "albeit".

      Possibly the funniest bit is when they grab words from other languages but got confused about what they meant. Like the Japanese for a man's business suit is "Sabiro", which is a strangulation of "Saville Row"!
  • And it's not just France, just about every non-english speaking country has the same problem and many have, to different degrees, choosen to replace the English terms with local ones. But just go ahead with the bashing(that we love so much) of the French.
  • by tuxliner (589414) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:32AM (#6483951)
    About 4 or 5 years ago, the "Academie Francaise" ( ie "The French Academy" a society of about 40 french writers who decide what words must be use in correct french language) stated that the most valid french translation for "E-Mail" was "Mel" (with an accent) which doesn't get pronounced exactly like the english word "mail" but, well, almost. They got heavily criticized for that and some people argued that "Courriel" which was used in Quebec was far better. (which, I think, is true). Nowadays, the french state ( which is NOT the "Academie Francaise") choses to use the word "Courriel" at last. We're just 4 years late. Our canadian cousins were true.
  • Using government regulations is a very bad way to protect a language. The Right Way is to introduce native words to a local vocabulary before it goes mainstream when the technology is still being adopted.

    If they had started in 1993, they would have had a chance. In 2003, it's way too late.

  • Hé Homer, curriel je que ces ventes figure!

    Hmmm... Curry.... (drools)

    OK, so the French have invented a "native" word to supplant the import. They've only been doing that since about the 17th Century.

    We Anglophones on the western side of the pond have been borrowing French words practically without modification for about that long, but probably because we're lazy. I'd guess that the trend is older than that--look how many "English" words are lifted directly (or near-directly) from French. Some of the

  • How is the gov't able to *ban* words? Hello!?
  • by sparks (7204) <acrawford AT laetabilis DOT com> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @10:47AM (#6484061) Homepage
    email OR e-mail site:fr 433,000 results [google.ca]

    couriel OR couriell site:fr 730 results [google.ca]

    "courrier electronique" site:fr 1,340 results [google.ca]

    From the article: "The ministry's General Commission on Terminology and Neology insists Internet surfers in France are broadly using the term "courrier electronique" (electronic mail) instead of e-mail".

    Interesting definition of "broadly" when it's apparently used 200 times less than "email".

    • by ixache (123955)

      Let's try and do a better search... For example, let's use google.com, not google.ca, type in real French words, and search all sites written in French, not .fr sites only; let's also take into account a very common mispelling. Which gives:

      What can we conclude? I don't know, except that the article I'm responding to is not very accurate.

      Xavier

  • Pt? (Score:4, Funny)

    by dark&stormynight (69479) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @12:54PM (#6484890)
    Will SPAM now become Pâté? Also, the SPAM song won't be as funny if you sing...

    Pâté, Pâté, Pâté... wonderful Pâté!
  • language=identity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by misterpies (632880) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @03:11PM (#6485744)
    When you're looking down from a position of linguistic dominance, it's very easy to ridicule other culture's attempts to preserve their identity. Language is the cornerstone of most cultural identities - right down to the accent that identifies which village you come from.

    And language is more than merely a tool for communicating. It influences the way you think. For example, not all languages have the same number of words for basic colours. (English had no word for "orange" until the middle ages. It was considered a shade of yellow). Neurological studies have shown that without the word for a colour, your brain doesn't even recognise that shade as being different from whatever other shade the language assimilates it to. (So in a language where red and green are the same word, the entire population is red-green colorblind). [If you wonder how different societies can end up with different words for colours, imagine you spend your life in the arctic. Differences in shades of white will be far more important to you than telling red from yellow.]

    Also, before laughing at the French, Americans should look at their own history. Following independence, there was a deliberate attempt to cement the new American identity by differentiating the language from "British" English. A certain Mr Webster took this to heart and drew up a dictionary where he deliberately created differences from accepted English spellings (there was no such thing as truly standard spelling in those days). And that's how the US ended up with color, thru and -ize.

    So should the French government be trying to protect the French language? Well let's just say that it's not as crazy as it sounds.
    • by DeadVulcan (182139) <{dead.vulcan} {at} {pobox.com}> on Sunday July 20, 2003 @05:22PM (#6486530)

      While I agree that language influences the way you think, I've never agreed with the simplistic examples of "they have more words for X" or "they have a word that means Y". And I think your conclusion about linguistically caused colourblindness takes the idea way, way too far.

      If, instead of colour perception, you had referred to the perception of verbal sounds, then I would have agreed more. If a sound doesn't exist in your language, the brain tends to "snap" it to the closest sound that does exist, and it's virtually impossible to hear it any other way.

      But if you want to dig deeply into linguistic influences on thought, I think it's more instructive to look at things like grammar and fundamentally important language constructs.

      In my native Japanese, for instance, the sentence structure places the predicate (the verb) at the end of the sentence. All your objects and completions come first, unlike English where the verb is sandwiched in between. You have to think about things in a different order when speaking Japanese.

      Japanese has no future tense. You just use the present tense conjugation, and if it's not obvious from the context, you explicitly specify that it's in the future (e.g., by saying "tomorrow" or "next week").

      Here's a biggie: Japanese has no direct translation for "to be." There are translations for certain specific meanings, like "to exist" or "to be [in a location]" and adjectives get conjugated like verbs if you are describing something. But Hamlet's "to be or not to be" would have to be translated into something completely different in Japanese.

      IMHO, it's these sorts of things that influence thought, not some simple word-count.

  • by MickLinux (579158) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @04:22PM (#6486192) Journal
    But you have to put it *all* in French. He Pierre, m'curriellez ces chiffres de ventes.
  • by vmxeo (173325) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @07:10PM (#6487117) Homepage Journal
    ...I say we rename FreeNet to FrenchNet. That'll show 'em.

    ...actually, no...wait, switch that.
    Err... uh, nevermind...
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @07:50PM (#6487293) Homepage
    They're called "bike messengers"...

    Oh, wait, maybe I'm thinking "courier"...never mind...

  • by ixache (123955) on Sunday July 20, 2003 @11:01PM (#6488149)

    I'd like to clear up a few points. French words will be emphasized.

    The decision referred to in the article is purely administrative: it sets a standard for use in government documents, not the for the people at large, who are still free to speak and use words as they see fit. A lot of foreign words have their official French counterparts, but quite often people do not use them. For example, when Sony coined the word "walkman", l'Académie française, which is the highest authority on the French language, coined and try and impose the word "baladeur" to take its place, but it never took off. Funnily enough, in the unlikely field of computers, a few words coined to take the place of English words did enjoy great success, such as ordinateur for "computer", logiciel for "software" (so "Free Software" is Logiciel Libre), informatique for "computer science" or "computer-related", etc.

    On the other hand, French speaking people do use a lot of "foreign" words. For example, just restricting oneself to fast foods, the French eat a lot of sandwichs, some of them being hot dogs, others hamburgers (which simply means "from Hamburg" in German, but still, the word with this meaning came from English) or paninis, but most of the time they still are the traditionnal jambon-beurre (butter and ham sandwich). All these words are in my Larousse 1998 French dictionnary, except for the last. Go figure. And a lot more words were originally foreign but are now felt as perfectly integrated into the language, sometimes with a few alterations, such as budget, (same word), or paquebot (liner, comes from the English "packet-boat").

    As for the word e-mail, it stands for electronic mail, the correct translation of which is of course courrier électronique, which is quite cumbersome to use. People, being lazy and bad typists, felt the need for a shorter word, just as the English has, and so, with no better idea, they used e-mail or even mail. In Quebec, they coined courriel which is a smart and evocative contraction of courrier électronique, just the kind of thing that the Quebecers would do. In France, they coined the ugly mél, which sounds about the same when read as mail (to sound exactly the same, they should have written meille, which is too cute; if you want the "e-" part, just add "i" in front the word for the sound, or "é-" for the abbreviation), but it was never widely used. So after a few years, they finally decided to go the Quebec way, since at least it seems to enjoy some kind of popularity.

    A few other points: Internet is considered a proper noun, so it does not need to be translated, just to be capitalized. There are French words for "net" and "web" (réseau and toile, so Internet would be "Interéseau"), but most people would use le Net and le Web. French nouns cannot be used as verbs as-is as the English usually does. One has to add some kind of ending to make it work, which gives for example un voile, voiler for "a veil, to veil" (but note that "a sail, to sail" is une voile, naviguer).

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