Just Above Sunset Archives
July 13, 2003 - Mail
Received recently - A discussion of the French between parties in Atlanta and Paris, moderated here in Hollywood, considering Montreal and many other topics
This last week "La Commission Generale de Terminologie et de Neologie" of the Académie Française, overseer of the French language in France, adopted a new word into French. It seems they were seeking a French word for email (e-mail). So they decided on the word "courriel" - seven years after it was first used by University of Montreal literature professor Jean-Claude Guedon. The word "courriel" recently appeared in the language commission's official publication, and use of the term will be mandatory throughout the French government. So chalk one up for the rubes in Canada, those folks the Parisians love to ridicule.
I passed this long to my friends in an email, or "courriel" as it were.
I received this from Rick Brown in Atlanta -
Reading that, Ric Erickson in Paris wrote this -
regards from decadent Paris, ric
So Ric in Paris reports no one there who is 'avec tendence' - trendy - uses the term "courriel" at all. And he proposes an alternative that is interesting. And he points out anyone who does computer things there get "chic points" for using the English term for things.
Background: The Académie Française (literally, French Academy) is a French body founded in 1560 when Charles IX granted the charter for an "academy of Music and Poetry" to the poet Antoine de Baïf and the musician, Gourville, who named it "Académie Française." On 10 February 1635 Cardinal Richelieu under Louis XIII expanded it into a national academy for the artistic elite. The Académie, located in Paris - the south end of the Pont des Arts bridge - is the official authority on usage, vocabulary, and grammar. Pretentious busybodies who don't know jack shit about computers? Perhaps so. But they do have a website -- www.academie-francaise.fr - of all things.
Someone in the late eighteenth century suggested to Samuel Johnson, that chubby fellow with gout who wrote our first dictionary, that we ought to have such a body to keep English pure. He scoffed and said things about how language changes and develops with the times and that sort of thing, then scratched his cat Hodge behind the ears and dozed off again.
The French have been "protecting the purity of the language" for centuries. Except on "les week-ends" when one presumes they relax at home and play with the kids. And I thought in France a lampshade was an "abat-jour" - a thinger that "cuts down the day." See - abattre - "to cut down" - as in abattoir (slaughterhouse). Language can be so odd.
So Rick (Atlanta) saw Ric's comments from Paris and added.
I added this, "Oh, but they are nutty in their own way. As are we all."
And Ric in Paris added this, for Rick in Atlanta:
And to me he wrote -
My reply to all was this -
Curious stuff here. Particularly regarding the proximity of Saint-Anne (the Bedlam Hospital of Paris) to La Sante (the Sing-Sing of Paris) to the Post Office where the person at the counter may or may not know what a "courriel" may or may not be. And "souplrail" is a mystery to me, and to http://www.systranbox.com/ which I use for quick translations when the cat is sleeping on my pile of dictionaries.
As for France being the Catch-22 place where you can't get there from here, it is the French that give us the word bureaucracy after all. Yes, the Avignon theater festival is now dead for this year, as is the Aix music festival and others. I see the Rolling Stones managed to stage their Paris concerts this week in spite of the labor unrest everywhere, by asking for volunteer "roadies" to get them set up. There were protests to that move, Ric, were there not?
As for the Académie Française being slow with their dictionary, well, the OED took forever to get past "M" by 1933 and who knows when they'll get completely done - but "completely done" is not possible of course if the language is always in flux.
As for other language notes, Ossining, New York, up the river from the city, is where one finds the prison one calls "Sing-Sing" - when you're sent "up the river" you don't have to try to pronounce the name of that little town where you'll be staying for a time.
Other trivia regarding Avenue Leclerc. My nephew in our army, who knows his Abrams tanks real well, tells me the French battle tank, the Leclerc, is pretty nifty. The French have had, and still have, considerable engineering talent. My other nephew in Ohio as I mentioned, the executive pilot, flies that Falcon built in Toulouse - a fine airplane. And now that Renault owns controlling interest in the Nissan car empire, perhaps we shall see some cool French-Asian fusion automobiles coming our way.
So that was this week's emails, or some of them.
You can check out Ric Erickson's Paris website here: http://www.metropoleparis.com
Rick Brown is responsible for this Atlanta website: http://www.city-directory.com/