May 15, 2000-- Newsletter #80

By Joe Burns

Goodies to Go (tm)
May 15, 2000--Newsletter #80
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear ...

The movie "Quantum" has just been released. It's the first film specifically made for - and distributed by - the World Wide Web. It has some pretty big stars: John Cleese, Stephen Dorff, and Fay Masterson. The movie can be downloaded for $3.95 at a couple of sites: or You provide the popcorn.

eBay had to remove a few bogus Elian Gonzalez auctions from their site. One claimed to be selling the "boat" Elian arrived on, and another claimed to be selling a toothbrush "like Elian would use." Someone else wanted to sell a jar containing scents from Little Havana in Miami, and there was one offer to actually sell Elian himself. Users pretty much knew the auctions were fake and complained. One upset bidder decided to raise the hopes of the fakers by bidding $10 million. He (or she) later retracted the bid.

Remember when businesses picked a company name first, and then got a dot-com? Not anymore. It seems a good many start-up companies are beginning to pick their company name by what is available on the Web. USA Today reported the tale of a Pittsburgh company that wanted to call itself Digital Triangle, but the domain name had already been taken. When the owner wouldn't sell, they dropped the name rather than try to find a different form of the name for their URL.

Now on to today's topic ...

OK, class. It's time for our foreign language lessons. Let's all say "home page," shall we?

In Spanish: El Homepage

In French: La Homepage

In German: Das Homepage

In Latin: Carpe Homepage

Obviously, this is paraphrasing a bit, but it's just this kind of "English as the Web language" thing that has the language purists in France concerned.

Since 1635, when a man named Richelieu founded the Academie Francaise, French officials have done their best to keep the French language pure. We English-speaking people aren't quite as concerned. We basically let any and all languages into our dialect. The French, on the other hand, don't want that, and the Web is beginning to cause problems.

The Academie Francaise has done its best over the years to come up with a French equivalent to any foreign word (usually English ones) entering the language. Some famous examples include "typewriter" becoming "machine a ecrire" and "airplane" becoming "l'avion".

Well, the guillotine has dropped once again. While the French Web-heads eat cake, they do something they term "surfez le Web," looking for "les start-ups" and referring to them as "tres cool".

Oh, that can't be good.

Officials have been quick to point out that those phrases don't mean anything in the French language. There is no "Web" in French. The French word for "cool" doesn't mean the same thing as the English-slang equivalent.

Last month the French Ministry came out with their list of acceptable French words for cyber-elements. Here's the deal:

"Le start-up" will now be "une jeune pousse" (translation: a sapling or sprout).

"E-mail" will now be "message electronique." The acceptable shortened form, "mel," sounds like "mail," but we won't get picky.

"Le Web" will now be "la toile" (translation: literally "web").

"Cool" tripped them up. The word " frais" means not quite cold, but colder than warm, but the slang meaning would be completely lost if they used it. I guess "la Web generation" will simply have to start using whatever French equivalent there is to "neat-o."

Where someone stands on this issue usually depends on how close they are to the Web itself. While some laugh at the concept of calling a new Web business a sapling, others embrace it.

Officials don't care, though. In a statement, they proclaimed that French will remain an uncontaminated language. As time and technology march on, officials will continue to provide French equals for English terms.

Oh well. As Henry Higgins sings in the early scenes of "My Fair Lady":

"In France every Frenchman knows his language from 'A' to Zed. The French don't care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly."


That's that. Thanks for reading. I appreciate your taking the time.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: Baseball season is underway and my my Indians are not doing too well. I thought a baseball fact would be good right about now. The pitcher who finished a game throwing the least number of pitches is Red Barret of what was then Boston Braves. He faced 27 batters, and threw only 58 pitches. That's an average of just over 2 pitches per man at bat. This guy must have been easy to hit. Luckily he had a good field behind him.

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