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<   No. 212   2003-08-25   >

Comic #212

1 French Bureaucrat 1: {sitting at a table in front of a "Regardez! Français, oui! Anglais, non!" sign} Zee latest resarche shows usage of zee word "email" eez eencreasing among zee publique.
2 French Bureaucrat 2: Zis eez out-rejjus! We cannot allow zee people française to speak any way zay want!
3 French Bureaucrat 2: Zee Academie Française hereby rules zat zees word shall be replaced by zee new word: courriel!
4 French Bureaucrat 3: Okay! I'll send an email to let folks know!
4 French Bureaucrat 1: You eediot.

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gez117 kindly supplied me with the following translation:

1: Les dernières enquêtes montrent que le mot "e-mail" est de plus en plus utilisé par le public.
2: C'est scandaleux! Nous ne pouvons pas laisser le peuple français s'exprimer dans un langage abâtardi!
3: L'Académie Française déclare donc que désormais, il faudra utiliser le terme courriel, qui sera la traduction officielle
4a: Bien! Je vais envoyer des e-mails pour avertir les gens!
4b: Imbécile!

2012-07-03 Rerun commentary: This strip was sparked by a news item at the time (August, 2003), which reported that the Académie Française had issued an edict that the French language was not to use the English loanword "e-mail", but rather the specifically designed new French word courriel. This raised many eyebrows and initiated spirited Internet criticism of the Académie as an outdated behemoth attempting to stem the tide of the inevitable by dictating what words people should use (and what should be banned), in an egregious example of the worst excesses of linguistic prescriptivism.

And who am I to avoid a bandwagon?

The real question now, some nine years on, is what word do French people actually use? A Google translation of the French Wikipedia page "Courrier électronique" seems to indicate that the Académie's edict stands, but that "French vocabulary to describe electronic mail is not yet set in Europe, usage wavering between various terms. The word email (or e-mail), is widely used in French-speaking Europe."

One gets the image of members of the Académie standing on a submerged rock 10 metres off shore, trying to hold back the tide.

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