Thank god English is generally defined bottom-up rather than top down, a mirror of the liberal capitalist society both we and England used to have. The alternative is absurd:
The word on the table that morning was "cloud computing."To translate the English term for computing resources that can be accessed on demand on the Internet, a group of French experts had spent 18 months coming up with "informatique en nuage," which literally means "computing in cloud."
France's General Commission of Terminology and Neology -- a 17-member group of professors, linguists, scientists and a former ambassador -- was gathered in a building overlooking the Louvre to approve the term.
"What? This means nothing to me. I put a 'cloud' of milk in my tea!" exclaimed Jean Saint-Geours, a French writer and member of the Terminology Commission.
"Send it back and start again," ordered Etienne Guyon, a physics professor on the commission....
Before a word such as "cloud computing" or "podcasting" ("diffusion pour baladeur") receives a certified French equivalent, it needs to be approved by three organizations and get a government minister's seal of approval, according to rules laid out by the state's General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France. The process can be a linguistic odyssey taking years.
"Rigor cannot be compromised," said Xavier North, the 57-year-old civil servant who heads the General Delegation.
In particular, its heartening that the French have a finely-tuned understanding of their rights. They have no hard and fast right to free speech as we have in the US, but
Article Two of France's Constitution states that, "The language of the Republic shall be French." The French government, therefore, has a duty to offer citizens French alternatives to English words, he says. "Our citizens have a right to communicate without speaking English."
I discussed this same topic earlier. This makes for another excellent reason to oppose laws mandating English as our official language, promulgated by folks who are outraged at having to press 1 for English -- it can't be a good idea if the French do it.
I found this incredible:
Each of France's government ministries has at least one terminology committee attached to it. The job of the people on the committee is to spot new English words and create and define French alternatives before the English version catches on. Ms. Madinier called on the committee in charge of computing terminology -- which is part of the French Finance Ministry -- to handle the expression "cloud computing."
I would have thought that the influx of so many new concepts and technologies in English might have been a clue that maybe France needed to do something about innovation; but no, apparently it will be fine to gravy train off American and English innovation as long as they can come up with a French name for everything. The only other country I know of that was so fixated on making Anglo-American innovation look homemade was the Soviet Union.