Printable Version
Pronunciation: kuR-yel Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The French word for "e-mail" (not for use in English!)

Notes: Back at the turn of the millennium, the French Ministry of Culture ordered the replacement of the English term e-mail with its French equivalent, courriel, in all government documents, publications, and Web sites. The order originated in the General Commission on Terminology and Neology which is closely allied with the Académie Française (French Academy), long-time overseer of the purity of the French language. It now seems to have earned the support of the French government.

In Play: Only rarely do we use this forum to report on languages other than English. We often point out words borrowed from other languages into English, which most English speakers take as an enrichment of the language. Other peoples, however, react differently and Academies such as the French Academy exist in many European nations from Spain to Russia. Attempts to artificially direct the course of language development have a dismal record. However, this one seems to have succeeded.

Word History: Today's word is a blend of French courrier "mail, post" and el from électronique "electronic". Courrier is the direct descendant of Latin currere "run". It is related to French courir "to run" and coureur "runner", as well as English courier, course, corridor (in which kids are taught never to run), cursor, and current—all of which were borrowed from French or Latin. Spanish corral and Afrikaans kraal come from the same root. Carpenter was based on Latin carpentum "chariot", whose name is derived from another relative, carrus "cart", also source of English car. The Latin original meant "cart-maker". (Paul Ogden, may he rest in peace, ran today's Good Word by us more than a decade ago, and we could not resist the story behind it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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