The Linguistics equivalent of a Jerry Lewis movie

OK, I knew that the Academy Fran-say were crazy, but I didn't know they were this crazy.

They have an "official uniform embroidered with green and gold olive leaves". Their "pure" French alternative to World Wide Web is "toile d'araignée mondiale", which, you'll note, completely obliterates the whole point of the phrase World Wide Web -- the acronym. But best of all:

Few mortals have ever witnessed the academy at work. The privilege is reserved for monarchs and heads of state, and "no more than 19" have been so honored in the academy's nearly 400-year history, Mr. Druon said.

They're not just misguided lexicographers -- they're a sinister cabal, accountable to less than half a monarch/head of state per decade!

When asked if a journalist might attend one of the working sessions, he threw his head back and bellowed, "Never!"

That works better if you imagine him saying "Nevair!" instead. But I suppose the interview itself was conducted in French.

(via LanguageHat, who is back.)

Popularity factor: 5


"La Toile" is what the web is generally called in the Frenchy-French, academy or no academy. My Collins GEm mini-dictionary lists eight (8) Frenchy-French words beginning with W, all of them loans (except perhaps "Wallon"?), so the acronym was always going to be toast.

(But how many Englishes know or care what "i.e." once stood for? Even I only know.)

Des von Bladet


Oh, I know that they couldn't keep the exact same acronym, but surely they could at least have found a bunch of words that started with T or something. Toile du Tout du... naTions... or... I don't know. I don't speaka her, the French.

Literally translating a useful metaphor like "Web" makes sense, but literally translating a cute phrase like "World Wide Web" doesn't. Is my position. If Academies must exist, I at least expect them to promote clever and charming language rather than this cargo-cult stuff.


Yeah, yeah. But the French word for 'web surfer' is 'internaute'. Beat that, can you?


Yeu cannaute beat zee internaute... but he can beat yeu!


That's true. I'll grant them the coolness of "Internaute". And I demand more!

Comment season is closed.