Re: [OT] French Government Bans the Term 'E-Mail'

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sun Jul 20 2003 - 18:23:59 EDT

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    On Sunday, July 20, 2003 9:56 PM, Michael Everson <> wrote:

    > Off-topic, but interesting. This just crossed my desk....

    This is not a ban of the technology, just a ban of a term in official publications. The term "e-mail" (or any other term) is not banned from private conversations and documents...

    Official terminology, published several years ago as "mél", is considered stupid for most French readers (only the French ISP Wanadoo tried to use it to name one of its service, but this trademark usage has been abandonned, in favor of "messagerie" to designate the service, "message" for any technology, and "courriel" for the specific use with SMTP addresses).

    The French Canadian term "courriel" is much more widely accepted now in France, and in fact I also like the term "courriel" which sounds and writes better with the French orthograph than the imported acronym "e-mail", or "email" (confuzing with the French term "émail" which is the material that covers teeth, or a decoration and protection material that covers plates), or "imail".

    When the term "mél" was published, it was a simple approxiative phonetic transliteration of "mail", not "e-mail"... I have supported and used since long the term "courriel" as much more acceptable than "e-mail", and "courriel" is now often used by journalists and radio speakers.

    Yahoo is very late in this news: the French official terminology already banned the term "e-mail", but the first choice of "mél" had to be removed, as everybody refused it. As the term courriel is now widely used, known and recognized, there was no other choice than using the prefered "courriel" instead of the studid "mél".

    There is no requirement for commercial services, despite what Yahoo seems to suggest, as they can continue to use "e-mail" in their ads (but the english acronym should be explained in French with a little asterisk, in legal documents, like commercial contracts, licencing and usage policy terms, ...).

    One final note: the term "courriel" looks and sounds like "logiciel" (software) and a lot of terms ending in "-iel", this suffix being used to denote "électronique". So "courrier" can be viewed as a contraction of "courrier électronique" (electronic mail was also contracted into "email" in English, except that many terms are created with a "e-" prefix in English, sometimes as an acronym like "e-mail" or contracted in a single prefixed word like "email")

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