Jewish World Review August 6, 2003 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5763

David Grimes

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Word dominance by U.S. appears a fait accompli | Perhaps still smarting from our recent decision to rename shoestring potatoes "freedom fries" (to say nothing of "freedom dressing" and "freedom maid"), the French government has decreed that the term "e-mail" will henceforth be pronounced "courriel." The concern, as I understand it, is that Americanisms are diluting the French language to the point that pretty soon everything from berets to bidets will be referred to as "Big Mac."

Still, like my doomed campaign to rid the English language of the word "whom," I doubt that the French Culture Ministry will have much luck booting "e-mail" from the national lexicon.

"Courriel" is meant to be a fusion of the French words "courrier electronique," meaning "electronic mail." No word on what, if anything, the French intend to do about far more annoying Americanisms like "chat rooms," "blog" and "you have performed an illegal operation and will be shut down."

This is just the latest attempt by the French government to put a Gallic stamp on the international language of computers. Last year, the government tried to get people to pronounce the "@" symbol in e-mail (excuse me, "courriel") addresses not as "at" but as either "arobase" or "arrobe." This worked about as well as the government decree stating that Internet start-up companies should henceforth be referred to as "jeunes pousses" or "young sprouts." (The French should have waited. Since NASDAQ went into the tank, Americans have begun referring to these companies as "pension poison.")

Still, I feel that there is a rift forming between America and France that goes beyond computer nomenclature. Disagreement between the two countries on the necessity of war with Iraq has fostered bad feelings on both sides to the point that French-English/English-French dictionaries now include whole sections on how we can insult one another.

Naturally, I am appalled by this and point it out only so you don't inadvertently say "T'as une tête a faire sauter les plaques d'egouts" (You've got a face that would blow off manhole covers) when what you really mean to say is "Vos enfants sont tres beaux" (Your children are very attractive).

Donate to JWR

Similarly, you do not wish to say to a Frenchman "Il y a une grenouille vivante dans mon potage" (There is a live frog in my soup) when you wish to say "Vous ne pouvez pas obtenir ceci chez McDonald" (You can't get this at McDonald's).

Franco-American relations could be set back even further than they are now if you mistakenly say to a French person "Voulez-vous cesser de me cracher dessus pendant que vous parlez!" (Would you stop spitting on me while you're talking!) when what you really mean to say is "Pleut-il souvent a cette saison?" (Does it rain often this time of year?).

Likewise, a Frenchman should not say to an American "Votre président a-t-il été lâché la tête en bas en tant qu' enfant?" (Was your president dropped on his head as a child?) unless he thinks such a remark will initiate a positive dialogue and promote better understanding between our two countries.

Me, I'm putting off that trip to France until things settle down or, as the French might say, "Jusqu'à ce que le weasel se couche avec le gerbil" (Until the weasel lies down with the gerbil).

Whatever that means.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


07/28/03: Ads that are hard to swallow
07/09/03: Keep cows out of the classroom
07/03/03: Little-appreciated facts about unshaven men
06/24/03: Brother, can you paradigm?
06/18/03: Cats, TV not a good mix
06/10/03: In defense of grumpiness
06/04/03: Do we really need keyboards in our Port-A-Johns?
05/29/03: Always a dull men's moment
05/21/03: Bad PC hygiene leads to bugs
05/12/03:Army mops up; Tony Blair doesn't
05/06/03: Grill a hamburger for PETA
05/01/03: Exams spice history
04/23/03: Too much money? Tax me more!
04/14/03: When good gourds go bad
04/11/03: One fish-tale that isn't --- and that's no lie!
04/02/03: Do you really want to know what your dog's thinking?
03/26/03: Pajamas make high school less stressful
03/21/03: It's time to be nice to the French
03/03/03: The ultimate clean and constructive sport
02/12/03: Get a bang out of cleaning with cruise vacuum
02/06/03: Voluntary kindness? Not likely
01/28/03: Signs our economy is on upswing
01/22/03: There may be cash in your old underwear
01/15/03: Banish these words, now more than ever
01/07/03: Coughing as an art form
12/24/02: Parents shell out for missed homework
12/17/02: French government says no to @ symbol
12/11/02: A latecomer joins fellowship of the DVD
12/02/02: Don't worry, be fat, unfit and really happy
11/18/02: Intrigued by a German invention that could get teens out of bed before the crack of noon
11/06/02: A noose by any other name ...
10/29/02: Iranian dogs on notice
10/22/02: Talk about a job that stinks --- literally!
10/15/02: The official world's funniest joke
10/02/02: Japanese turn eyes to computer haikus
09/27/02: Oh, no! Bosses want to know what's on your mind
09/24/02: An airbag, humanity's salvation?
09/06/02: Come listen to a story about a man named ... Bill
09/03/02: You're not in preschool anymore!
08/30/02: A charming idea from a brutal, whacked-out, megalomaniacal dictator-for-life
08/26/02: Blubber water? How to put on the pounds by gulping H20
08/21/02: The latest evidence that Mother Nature is out to kill us
08/13/02: Computers, airplanes and Canada don't mix
08/06/02: The sky's not falling? Dang it!
08/02/02: Some fond memories of worst TV shows
07/30/02: Pay my credit-card bill, please?
07/25/02: Something to celebrate
07/22/02: Baseball needs to ban the fans
07/16/02: Hasbro should consider new inaction figure
07/11/02: Decline in trash-talking is harming our mental health? Well, #@%&!
07/08/02 Americans retain right to fork tongues
07/01/02 These laws were made to be broken
06/18/02 Watching enough commercials?
06/03/02 Throwing your vote to the dogs
05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune