Do any of you French speaking Dudes out there have any idea why computers are called “ordinateurs”? If they were called “ordonnateurs” or something like that I could sort of understand it, but “ordinateur” seems related to ordinal numbers and little else.
I think the ethymology would mean "sorter"as the first machines were sorters/tabulators.
I can’t spreak for France, but the use of the term in Quebec is partly due to an effort to keep Anglicisms like “le computer” out of the French language. The use of the term is more political than technical, and if you listen to a group of Francophone technicians talk casually back and forth, they’re likely to jam words like “computer” and “l’hard drive” into the conversation, ignoring government decree.
“Ordinatuer” to describe a machine that counts and tabulates is not a bad description of what a computer does, and as sailor points out, it harkens back to the early days of computing, involving punch cards and whatnot.
Far more amusing is a term I’ve only seen once or twice: “Cédérom.”
Trouble is that if harked back to sorters, it would be ordonnateur, as I said in the OP. It is ordinateur that I cannot find an explanation of. I asked a colleague of mine who is a French speaking Belge and he agrees that the term is inexplicable.
I do not speak French but I suspect it may be that ordonnateur comes from “order” in the sense of “command” while ordinateur comes from “order” in the sense of sorting in correspondence with the natural (ordinal) numbers.
I was in the science museum in Paris (that Cite des Sciences place: http://www.cite-sciences.fr )a few years ago. They had the original letter from some scientist guy in some institute to some linguist guy in some other insitute explaining that he had chosen ‘ordinateur’ as the name for the darn-fangled new invention called the ‘computer’. It went into the nuances of the derivation.
Sorry I’ve no concrete site, but it was a long time ago. (My french googling skills aren’t so hot, can’t even type an accent dangit.
selon l’étymologie … l’ordinateur, c’est " celui qui met en ordre
(according to etymology the “ordinateur” is what places [things] in order
(oops, hit submit too soon)
Ordinateur : En 1954, IBM voulait trouver un nom français pour ses machines, et éviter le mot " calculateur " (traduction littérale de " computer ") qui lui semblait mauvais pour son image de marque. Le linguiste Jacques Perret a proposé, dans sa lettre du 16 avril 1955, d’utiliser le terme " ordinateur ", mot dont l’usage ancien signifiait " celui qui met en ordre "