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By Tom Mudd, Special to the Tribune (Article in The Chicago Tribune, 26 June 2002)

DUBLIN – Every time he hears an ad for a certain cellular telephone phone company, Michael Everson winces.
Not because of the actor in it or the grating music, but because the ad offers handsets for “79 euro” and boasts that people on the network can send messages for “7 cent”.
“It’s a false plural,” Everson said.
An American-born polyglot, Everson is on a personal crusade to turn back the tide on an example of eurospeak – as some within the European Union call it – that flies in the face of what he sees as simple linguistic sense. He has written approximately 200 letters to people in politics, government and the media to try to get them to stick to “euros” and “cents” as the plurals of the new currency’s units.
Six months after its introduction, the euro seems to be a remarkable success. People in the 11 nations who form the euro-zone took to it quickly, and the new currency has even managed to gain ground against the dollar. But while there may be economic and monetary union in a large part of Europe, there is anything but unity in the way people talk about the currency.
A web search for the words “euro” and “plural” this week generated 11,300 hits, many of them from Irish sources. They included dozens of flat-out assertions declaring that the plural of “euro” is “euro,” and dozens more declaring that, in English, the plural is “euros”.
Wim Duisenberg, who heads the European Central Bank, told a news conference that he prefers to use “euro” as the plural. The Belgian Bankers Association also opts for the invariable form. But the policy of Britain’s Guardian newspaper is to add the “s” to make the plural.
The Irish court of public opinion, meanwhile, seems to have a hung jury. On Monday, a shop assistant in a gas station here asked for “four euro and 29 cent” for a couple of newspapers and some chocolate. Just minutes earlier, a checkout girl in a local supermarket announced the total for a shopping basket as “43 euros and 32 cents.”
So who’s right? Both, as it turns out. Though neither is exactly right.
According to Jean Schaeyvaerts from the press office of the European Commission directorate in charge of monetary policy, “euro” is the plural form to be used in legal texts, but “euros” is perfectly correct in everyday speech.
The message did not come through with any clarity here, where the final word from Brussels seemed to be that “euro” and “cent” are both singular and plural. The Euro Changeover Board of Ireland, which oversaw the country’s conversion to the new currency, adopted that usage in a booklet distributed to every Irish household. State broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann followed suit.
George Lee, RTÉ’s economics editor, said he tries to follow official newsroom policy, but “euros” sounds more natural to him. He blames the Euro Changeover Board for creating “schizophrenia” in Ireland over the name of the new currency.
Use of what he considers an unnatural-sounding plural could even lead to some resentment toward European bureaucrats, with people feeling as though they’re being told how to speak. “I personally think it’s a mistake,” Lee said. “People are already wondering about Europe.”
For his part, Everson plans to go on a mad photocopying binge and send out another round of letters, this time including some of the responses he received to the first 200. While he has received encouragement, Everson said he feels like a “lone voice crying out in the wilderness.” If necessary, he will take his protest to the European ombudsman to try to get someone to tell people in Ireland that they are allowed to say “euros”.
“It’s an appalling situation,” said Everson, whose mostly very technically oriented website has recorded more than 12,000 visitors in the last six months. His ultimate hope, Everson said, is that the United Kingdom will opt to join the single currency, in which case he expects Britons to go with a plural form that sounds more natural to speakers of English.
RTÉ’s Lee agrees. “I can’t imagine the British using a plural that sounds French,” he said. “They’ll think it’s beneath them.”
Feargal Murphy, who teaches linguistics at University College Dublin, sees no inherent linguistic problem with using “euro” as a plural, comparing it to the existing example of “sheep”. He predicted that the question “will sort itself out” as people become more and more accustomed to the new currency.
With a chuckle, Murphy suggested that European officials could have avoided any problems by using a tool much beloved by linguists: Esperanto, the pan-European language devised by Polish physician L. L. Zamenhof.
“We shouldn’t have changed the currency without changing the language, as well,” Murphy said.
HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, Cnoc Fhéilim, Bóthar Bhaile an Róba, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo, Éire, 2002-07-11

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