`Eurolande' challenges a Mickey Mouse name

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FRANCE - or rather part of France - is fighting a rearguard action against the word euroland, the semi-official title for the 11 countries using the euro.

The newspaper Liberation is trying to promote an acceptable French alternative - eurolande, with a terminal but unsounded "e". Linguistic purists, however, point out that "lande" in French does not mean country but heath or bog. Can you really have the 300 million citizens of the euro zone living in a place called eurobog?

This is nonsense, say Liberation and others. Thailande, Hollande, Irlande and Nouvelle-Zelande are all perfectly good precedents. In any case, euroland sounds like a poor imitation of Disneyland. Should everyone in euroland wear Mickey Mouse ears in the shape of the new euro symbol?

Henri Lavenir de Buffon, head of an organisation trying to promote French as Europe's single language, wants to go a step further. He suggests that eurolande should be imposed as the official title of the euro zone, for all 11 nationalities and all nine languages taking part in the first wave of the single currency. That, he says, would be a "protection against cheap Americanisation and treason against Europe".

The august and style- setting newspaper Le Monde seems to have opted for euroland. One of its readers suggested, however, that the European Union should think again and go for a much less English-sounding name such as Euralie. After all, the British are not even in the euro zone.

The new currency has caused a similar linguistic headache in Russia. In both French and German, the euro has been made a masculine word. But, in the absence of an official ruling in Russian, the country's newspapers have made it bisexual, swinging between masculine and feminine and occasionally straying into neuter.