Did you know that there are people who think you should say “How many euro?”—or, as some of them charmingly put it, “the –s in ‘euros’ is silent”? Check out this interview with Michael Everson, who was involved in the standardization process and seems like a sensible man:
Ian Dempsey: 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?
Michael Everson: 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?'”… 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…. 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!
Everson explains that the official guidelines call for the unchanged singular form only in certain legal texts; normal usage is not affected. And, as he says, “the speakers of languages have their own permission to say whatever they like”—words that should be graven above the entrance to every Academy in the world. I must admit that I find it hard to grasp the mindset of people who think some bureaucrat can tell them what forms to use in their own language. (Via A Fistful of Euros, which has the excellent epigraph Purity of race does not exist. Europe is a continent of energetic mongrels. –H.A.L. Fisher.)