France Bans the Term 'E-Mail'

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jul 18 17:11:18 UTC 2003

France Bans the Term 'E-Mail'

By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer

PARIS - 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.

 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.

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 — a claim some
industry experts dispute. "Courriel" is a fusion of the two words.

"Evocative, with a very French sound, the word 'courriel' is broadly
used in the press and competes advantageously with the borrowed 'mail'
in English," the commission has ruled.

The move to ban "e-mail" was announced last week after the decision was
published in the official government register on June 20. Courriel is a
term that has often been used in French-speaking Quebec, the commission

The 7-year-old commission has links to the Academie Francaise, the
prestigious institution that has been one of the top opponents of
allowing English terms to seep into French.

Some Internet industry experts say the decision is artificial and
doesn't reflect reality.

"The word 'courriel' is not at all actively used," Marie-Christine
Levet, president of French Internet service provider Club Internet, said
Friday. "E-mail has sunk in to our values."

She said Club Internet wasn't changing the words it uses.

"Protecting the language is normal, but e-mail's so assimilated now that
no one thinks of it as American," she said. "Courriel would just be a
new word to launch."

David Valentine
Sarah Lawrence College
dvalenti at
- -
"Never any of you start writing books.  It isn't worth it.
This summer has been harder work for me than all the
thirty years of knocking up and down that went before it."
-- Captain Flint

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