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European Central Bank President, the Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet, has apparently told EU finance ministers that the word ‘euro’ was being spelt differently across Europe, thereby breaking a 1997 ruling that all official languages should spell it the same way. Well, not Greece, actually with its different alphabet – and in the future not Cyprus (EU ,but not eurozone) and Bulgaria (not even EU yet…).

Does it really matter that Slovenians write evro, Latvians eiro and Hungarians “euro with an accent”? We can already inscribe the neutral glyph € wherever the term euro has to go, presumably a sign invented after the name of the currency, and on a par with symbols such as &, @, the Arabic and Roman numerals. Oh, and until recently the sign for the singer known by the vocable Prince. All the rest, surely, is a matter for subsidiarity, that grand EU principle for trickling decisions down to country level. Different languages pronounce € differently, and now they tend to write it out in full differently. Some pluralize it, some capitalize the first letter etc, in line with their own orthographical or morphological norms. Indeed, the 1997 ruling, indeed, might well be the very first term in the EU dictionary that has NOT been localized in accordance with most other EU official language policy.

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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