Après Le Deluge: French Battle Anglo Terms in Web Age

Experts struggle to create equivalents for terms like 'cloud computing'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2009 4:27 AM CDT
"We won't cut people's heads off if they don't use it," the head of the Terminology Committe says, but "language is what brought this country together."   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Defenders of the French language are fighting a rear-guard action against a flood of Anglo-Saxon computing terms. In a process that lags far behind advances in technology, experts are tasked with finding French equivalents for new computing technology. The terms must then be passed by a panel of linguists and professors, who are often puzzled by the concepts involved. The new term must then be approved by the Academie Française, the official authority on the French language.

Experts were recently ordered to go back to the drawing board when, after 18 months, they came up with informatique en nuage—literally, computing in cloud—as the French term for cloud computing. "What? This means nothing to me. I put a 'cloud' of milk in my tea!" scoffed one member of the Terminology Commission. The process may be time-consuming, but "rigor cannot be compromised," the commission's head tells the Wall Street Journal. He is currently seeking a French phrase for "web widgets."