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I remember using the word "courriel" with a French acquaintance. They found it funny and said nobody uses it in French and that I should just say "email" like everybody else.

I had read somewhere that "courriel" had been introduced to replace the English loanword by the Academy. Is it usual that these words don't catch on, was this one unusual in not being adopted, or was my informant just wrong?

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You should definitely qualify your geographical notion of success: some (many) words mentioned below are widely used in Québec, but absolutely unknown in France. –  Dave Aug 26 '11 at 0:24
side note: I might be wrong, but I believe the official Académie-recommended translation of email is [the horribly clunky] "mêl". "Courriel" is the much-older Québecois term for it, but is also quite commonly used in France. –  Dave Aug 26 '11 at 0:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There are several words or expressions that were successful - just not all of them in France. Navette Spatiale for Space Shuttle is one expression I remember being made fun of in a newspaper article when the official suggestion came out, and yet it stuck.

Courriel is widely used in Quebec, and it is one of the examples of how neither the French nor the Quebecois can really claim superiority in terms of not-using-anglicisms: When the French check their emails, they go "consulter les emails", whereas the Quebecois, they go "chequer les courriels".

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Anybody who has spoken French long enough in Quebec, would know better than trying to argue some sort of superiority on "not-using anglicisms" ;-) Québécois is filled to the brim with anglicisms (big ones and small ones), in a way the French could never achieve (unless the UK succeeds in their next attempt at reclaiming the Bordelais and settle as neighbours for a couple hundred years). That being said, I think Québécois neologisms are generally better thought-of and more successful than french ones. –  Dave Aug 26 '11 at 0:28
@Dave: Don't ever dare to mention this in public here - every now and then, a fiery debate erupts in letters to the editor, where both sides protest the other's long list of foreign words. I mean, they say week-end in France! - And they say cute in Quebec! etc. –  Jonas Aug 26 '11 at 12:36
  • Logiciel, replacing Software in 1974 is clearly the most successful
  • Hameçonnage, replacing Phishing according to the "Office québécois pour la langue française" has some success (hey, even Microsoft uses it !)
  • Publipostage for Mailing

To answer the question, a few do catch on, most of them are used to have a good laugh, such as the infamous bolidage chipped in to replace tuning.

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+1 on logiciel. Important note on the two other: they are virtually unknown outside of Québec (first time I ever heard "hameçonnage"). I believe bolidage is quite used in Belgium (would need confirmation). –  Dave Aug 26 '11 at 0:34
Together with Logiciel, there is Ordinateur. –  mouviciel Aug 31 '11 at 15:22
@mouviciel: yes, Ordinateur for Computer. Note that in 1970s you would have used Calculateur (that is a more direct translation) - meaning has slipped. Also note that French uses masculine nouns in this case - in Spanish they use Computador or Computadora as far as I know. –  Bruno Bonnefont Sep 3 '14 at 9:31
There is also Navigateur for Browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and previously Netscape, Mosaic). Netscape's browser official name was Netscape Navigator. –  Bruno Bonnefont Sep 3 '14 at 9:40

Courriel is not that unused, I think it's even quite common, in the same vein you had pourriel for spam.

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I just checked and even the french courriel provider laposte.net uses indésirables instead of pourriel –  Smugrik Aug 25 '11 at 22:12

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