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Quebec has come to the rescue of its linguistic cousins in France, where the heirs of Molière have been left lost for words in the hunt for Gallic versions of some common terms on the Internet.

The guardians of the French language, galled by the remorseless encroachment of English words into everyday usage, have been scratching their heads for the best part of a decade in search of French-sounding alternatives for such words as "e-mail," "spam" and "chat."

Now, almost 10 years after plugged-in Quebec adopted it, France has embraced courriel as an official translation for "e-mail," a Net-friendly version of the clumsy courrier électronique that authorities had been trying to enforce.

"It turns out that courriel went down well here and has started being used, so we've made the abbreviation official," said Florence Desmoulière of the Culture Ministry's official division that helps coin new words.

The use of courriel is obligatory for French public servants.

But France's language gurus have turned up their collective nose at some of Quebec's other offerings.

French-Canadian surfers use pourriel for spam, mixing poubelle (garbage can) and électronique. Chat is clavardage, from clavier (keyboard) and bavardage (chattering).

But the arbiters of what is and is not French have rejected these, at least for the moment.

"The language in Quebec is slightly more familiar than ours," Ms. Desmoulière said.

"It's different, more colourful. We like it a lot, but we don't quite have the same criteria.

"We've not found a satisfactory alternative for spam, nor for chat," she continued.

"Perhaps one day we'll adopt the Quebec view."

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