Vol. 1, Issue 11, July 29, 2003
France Bans the Letter E
The National Academy of France, reacting to widespread criticism of its decision last week to replace the term "e-mail" with "courriel," has gone one step further and banished all use of the letter "E" from the French language.
"I think this will assist our nation in guarding its linguistic purity," said French ambassador Raoul Pompidou last night, in a press conference marked by frequent silences as he grasped for words that do not employ the offending vowel. "It is almost as bad as adding an "I" in front of a word to transform it into a new - uh - not-old word."
The National Academy has been working to establish standards for French grammar and orthography since the seventeenth century. It is principally responsible for the profusion of silent letters and non-functional accents which make French so difficult to use correctly.
"By the seventeenth century, many vestigial letters had fallen into disuse as the language evolved," said Duke University Professor of French Chrétien de Troyes. "However, the Academy reinstated many of them in an effort to reflect the original Latin spelling from which the French terms had evolved. For example, circumflex accents, which do not affect pronunciation in any way, were added to indicate that an 's' used to follow the vowel with the accent. That is, actually, really, really pointless."
Many French have long resented the relentless intrusion of American slang into their language, particularly for modern items or terms.
"Le parking, le hamburger... Zut alors!" said Jeannette Malfin, a Parisian high school teacher. "And this business with the "e" - e-mail, e-business, E-Bay, e-lectric. We have had enough." When this reporter pointed out that Ms. Malfin had just violated the new e-ban eleven times, she declined to comment further and began muttering to herself while smoking furiously.
Reaction at the White House was mixed. "Well, I'm no Rhodes Scholar, but even I know you can't spell France without the letter 'E'," said President Bush in a press conference. "Can you?"
In addition to the logistical challenges posed by eliminating one of the most popular letters in the alphabet, it has been pointed out that France will now technically not be able to spell the word 'Euro,' which could have serious economic consequences for the country.
"We should just go back to using Francs," added Malfin. "Who needs the rest of Europe anyway?"