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 said.
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."