The French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde both ran stories on March 7 about another move on the part of the French Ministry of Culture to protect the national language -- particularly against the further incursion of anglicisms.

This time, the sentinels of language were after the growing use of English terminology on the World Wide Web.

Apparently, the ministry was appalled when President Chirac, during a recent visit to a Paris commercial district popular among start-up Internet companies, was overheard using the terms "e-mail," "le start-up" and -- our favorite -- "les start-up-istes."

So, what did the language police suggest?

For "e-mail," their recommendation was le courrier electrique -- descriptive yet boring, like "electronic mail" itself.

For "start-up," they waxed a little more allusive, suggesting la jeune pousse -- "young sprout" or "young shoot," in the botanical sense.

We'll have to wait and see whether the guardians of French will be able to influence the lingua franca of the borderless Web.

Just say no

Another adventure in language, this one a lot closer to home:

Insider received in the mail a flyer from a local wine shop that periodically cosponsors wine tastings with restaurants.

Its latest announcement was of an inclusive-priced dinner and tasting at an Egyptian restaurant, and Italian wines would be featured.

Across the top of the letter-size announcement, in large bold type, was the ill-advised heading "Una Italia e Arabia Notte."

Apparently, what the wine shop's proprietors were after was something like "An Italian and Arabian Night," perhaps playing on the idea of "The Arabian Nights" saga, but they missed by a mile, and what they came up with was, in Italian, all but nonsense syllables.

(We sense they may have had the assistance of one of those on-line-translator Web sites.)

This couldn't help but remind us of a yellowing old clip over a colleague's desk here, one that points up the inadvisability of playing with languages one does not know.

The big bold headline on the clip is the hilarious "Germans Say Nien to IBTA Over Translation Flap." (Someone obviously should've said "Nein!" to the headline writer.)

And what publication is this ageless gem from? ... You're reading it.

Caned and able

Given the unpredictability of Caribbean weather, many resorts in the region tuck an umbrella or two in the closet in each guest room -- an amenity well appreciated when the heavens do open.

2 umbrellas.The changing demographics of travel in the region poses yet another amenity question: With people living longer and traveling farther afield, it is very common to see lots of lead-heads (gray-haired folk) at front desks.

So, what to offer the seniors as an in-room amenity without wounding egos or implying physical limitations?

Jumby Bay resort on Antigua has come up with one answer.

In addition to large, sturdy umbrellas in each guest closet, the resort includes a pair of hand-carved, rubber-tipped canes -- uh, walking sticks.

The cobblestone pathways at the resort can pose a challenge, and it makes a lot of sense to use the items, especially at night. That way, everyone can save face without falling on it.

But it's got a good beat

Sad commentary on the geniuses who are designing our computer products -- or at least signing off on their advertising.

The classically minded out there may have noted a new television ad for Microsoft's Internet Explorer e-mail program that uses as its musical motif the "Confutatis Maledictis" from Mozart's Requiem.

"Where do you want to go today?" is the cheery line on the screen.

The line appears while a chorus sings "Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis," which translates as "The damned and accursed are consigned to the flames of hell."

Maybe for ad purposes, it's better to stick to the rich stock of tunes by the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Elton John and the like. If you play their records slowly enough (or backwards), at least you can vet the words.

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