Home & Office

French up in arms as @ sign sparks fury

C'est la vie as we say in England...
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

C'est la vie as we say in England...

Controversy has erupted in France where the renaming of the '@' sign, as commonly used in email addresses, has sparked furious debate. The government has told French citizens to stop using the two words in common usage - some favour the English 'at', while others opt for a more continental 'arobase', derived from Spanish - and start using a newly coined French word, 'arrobe'. The move is part of an ongoing drive to protect the use of the French language and prevent further infiltration of English and American-English phrases, but many see it purely as pointless legislation for legislation's sake. The constantly evolving lexicon of technology terms, which is almost entirely English-based, has proved to be a constant challenge for the French government. For many years new words and phrases have been coming into popular usage faster than the French government could translate them and disseminate the approved versions to the population. Among the few successes in common usage are 'ordinateur' (computer) and 'internaute' (internet user). However the government has been powerless to dissuade French citizens from adopting words such as 'email'.
Editorial standards