Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 09:40:08 -0400
From: Avi Arditti
Subject: Re: e-mail/paper mail

Recently, as part of a new segment on American language, I held a contest on Voice of America. We asked listeners to suggest a new name for traditional letters written on paper, to distinguish them from e-mail.

The deadline was May 24. We received 15 e-mails, 12 letters and two postcards from all over the world. Other postal mail may still be on the way, lending support to the term :snail mail.: However, few listeners suggested that term for traditional letters.

P-words like postal mail or paper mail proved popular [no, I did not say that on the air.] But the entries ranged from *inkmail: [Eritrea] to *scratch-and-scrawl mail: [Ukraine], from :OFL: for :old fashioned letter: [Egypt] to *NEPOST* [/knee-post/] for :not-electronic post: [Sweden].

Several suggestions came from China, including this e-mail note: *To replace the derogatory name of snail mail or S-mail, my suggestion is 9Good Old Mail,9 or GOMail, pronounced jee-oh-mail, not go-mail, for short. Another short form is GOM, to rhyme with 9mom.9:

A Nigerian listener suggested *G-mail: for *gas mail: because letters are transported in gas-powered vehicles. Then he added that :L-mail: [leg mail] would be more appropriate right now because of Nigeria9s fuel scarcity.

I also asked listeners what to call an electronic message itself -- *send me e-mail:? *send me an e-mail:? :send me an e-mail message:? -- as well as the plural form. Is it :e-mails*?

I got the idea for the contest from a Chinese listener who asked if English had a word for letters on *genuine: paper instead of e-mails. Some of the entries were quite funny and imaginative. We had five minutes to present the best ones on the air. I did not pick one winner, per se; rather, the better the entry, the better the prize.

I am tempted to try to publish the entries somewhere. I would think the idea for such a naming game might interest ESL/EFL teachers, which is why I am cross-posting this message to ADS-L and TESL-L.

Avi Arditti
VOA Washington
avi_arditti[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]