Cnoc Fhéilim, Bóthar Bhaile an Róba, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo Evertype: The name of the euro
[Evertype]  Interview on Today FM Home

euroAn interview on the Breakfast Show with Ian Dempsey, 2002-01-25, 07:45. Today FM, 100-102 MhZ, Dublin.

ID:By the way, a quick look at the euro zone, if you're going outside of it: UK sterling today you get 62 UK pennies; in the USA 88 cents for the euro, also Australian dollars, you get 1.69 Australian dollars, and 118.01 Japanese yen. And actually speaking of the euro zone and all of that business, we're going to get another opinion now this morning, on as to whether you should be pronouncing the -s on the end of the word or not, because, I mean, if you watch, say, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you've got Mr Precise, Gay Byrne, saying "you've got two thousand eurO," and then on the other side on TV3 on The Weakest Link, you've got Éamon Dunphy saying "you coulda won ten thousand euroS," and he's almost doing it on purpose now, to sort of emphasize the fact. Michael Everson is on the line, and now, Michael, good morning how are you?
ME:Oh, very well, Ian, how are you?
ID:You were involved in some way in this whole euro changeover thing, weren't you?
ME:Well, I mean, I'm a computer standardizer, and when they invented the euro sign, I'm part of the committee that helped to work to make it -- put into computers. I mean, it was a tragedy; they'd invented this thing and there was no support for it. So if it's on your fonts and on your keyboards and stuff I had something to do with that.
ID:You were the man.
ME:I was one of a number of people.
ID:Yeah, OK. And, I mean, what is the business with the -s at the end of it? You're on a bit of a crusade about this aren't you?
ME:I am on a bit of a crusade about this because we're having ... we're facing a sociolinguistic disaster right now, I mean, it's almost class-ridden, you know? You've got ordinary folk on Thomas Street and Camden Street saying "euros and cents", quite happily. And then you've got, you know -- I don't know who they are, whether it's they're better educated or they're just Dublin 4 or what, you know, and they're being very careful to say "euro and cent". And there's a reason for all of this, and I guess I'm going to have to point my finger at Mr McCreevy because he's at the top of the heap.... But whether or not he took any decisions or was just badly informed, I don't know. Now there's two pieces of legislation which are, sort of, relevant there. One is a European Council Directive from 1997 -- number 1103/97 -- which says that, basically, OK, "we consider that the name of the single currency has to be the same in all the official languages of the Union."
ME:And that's fair enough, you know. But what this means is, that all the countries, you know, it's like: "Lads, you have to call it euro. Austria can't opt out and say 'Well, we want to call it the ducat, please?'"
ME:They can't do that. So what this got, sort of, filtered down into through the Secretariat-General, it says that in legislation translation, in English, the thing is not supposed to be variable, it's not supposed to take its natural plural. Now I don't think there's any justification for this, because it doesn't make any sense, if you'll pardon the pun....
ID:Cents? [Laughs.]
ME:And there's the other thing is.... Brian Dobson, God love him, he was there on the news the other day, and he was giving the currency differences. And he was so careful, he said "cent" when he was talking about the euro and "cents" when he was talking about the dollar, and I can't imagine how anybody could possibly do that!
ID:I know, because it is, it's very awkward, I mean, people are being so careful about it, and as you say, the people who are actually just saying it, you know, colloquially, I suppose, whatever way feels most natural to them, they're right really. I think that it's going to evolve into that, isn't it, eventually.
ME:That's English! And the thing is that's also the recommendations of the European Commission Translation Service's English Style Guide.
ID:So you're saying that the actual, that these people are saying that that's the right way to do it?
ME:They say, and I quote: "Always write the word 'euro' in lower case with no initial capital." That's important. "Guidelines on the use of the euro, issued via the Secretariat-General, state that the plurals of both 'euro' and 'cent' are to be written without 's' in English." Now here's the recommendation: "Do this when amending or referring to legal texts that themselves observe this rule. Elsewhere, and especially in documents intended for the general public, use the natural plural with 's' for both terms."
ID:So you're giving us permission, basically, to use the -s at the end of it. Because a lot of people were ringing up, when I started using it originally, people were ringing up saying "Oh, you're saying it wrong there, it's supposed to be euro, the -s is silent and all."
ME:I'm saying that the speakers of languages have their own permission to say whatever they like...
ME:And that the only reason that people are saying "euro and cent" is because of a perceived notion that at some stage somebody in authority said "Oh, the Commission wants us to say 'euro and cent'." Well, not only does the Commission not have the right to tell us one thing or the other, but they didn't even actually tell us that, and in fact the Translation Section, the English-language people responsible there, they say don't do it either. So, here we are, we're stuck.
ID:Yeah, because I mean, like, with the pound for example, like if I went down and said, "It only cost me twenty pound," people would say "That's wrong, it's 'twenty pounds'."
ME:Well, that was slang.
ID:Yeah, well, exactly. You know, so...
ME:The biggest problem that I see.... I don't care what Charlie McCreevy says on Budget Day -- well I do, I pay a great deal of attention.... Thanks, Charlie....
ID:And a great deal of tax, I'm sure.... [Chuckles.]
ME:Well, we'll not go there.... But what I do care about is the newscasters saying "euro and cent", and worse, the advertisers.... You know, this Dell PC ad: "ninety-five euro". It's like, "Would you please just stop!"
ID:Say the -s will you, for God's sake!
ME:I won't buy anything from anyone who doesn't use a proper plural!
ID:But apart from that, anyway, it's been a smooth enough transition, particularly in Ireland, hasn't it?
ME:Actually, it's been fantastic, and the thing is that in fact, the enthusiasm that we've taken up with this bad grammar business, is part of our enthusiasm that's made the euro changeover a success.
ID:We care.
ME:We care. We did a proper job!
ID:And listen, how long do you think the ones and twos are going to last?
ME:I like them.
ME:I like them.
ID:Do you like them?
ME:Well, they're sort of pathetic and small, but I mean there's no reason not to keep them.
ID:Size doesn't matter, then, to you....
ME:[Laughs.] Not if you've got a lot of them.
ID:All right, listen, Michael, thanks a lot for that, for clearing it up for us. And I'm going to start using the -s now, at the end of it.... I'm going to use whatever feels most natural to me, OK?
ME:It's your currency!
ID:"Your currency." "The change is in your pocket". Good luck, thanks a million. Cheers, bye.
ME:All the best.
HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, Cnoc Fhéilim, Bóthar Bhaile an Róba, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo, Éire, 2002-01-25

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