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One must speak English to be understood!


The Lambda Mu 21 congress has now passed. It has been a great success and we have to be glad for IMdR. Once more I have been astonished that in the framework of oral presentations and meetings, in order to be understood by each other, we should speak English. When we talk about “safety” and “security”, we understand quite well; on the contrary, when we try to translate in French, there could be a disagreement.


  • Safety deals with protection of persons, goods and environment against risks eventually created by a system.
  • Security deals with fight against malicious acts which could threaten the system. For example, the cybersecurity deals with computer abuses.


Problems begin when one speaks French.


  • Protection of persons, goods and environment is « sécurité ». Such is understood « sécurité » at work as well as the work of a company « sécurité » engineer.
  • Fight against malevolence in French is « sûreté ». At country level, there is « Sûreté Nationale », and  in the companies it is the « sûreté » manager concern.


The debate could hence be closed: safety stands for « sécurité » and security stands for  « sûreté ». So do our colleagues of ICSI (« Institut pour une culture de sécurité industrielle ») mean with « sécurité » and they talk in English of safety education and they have their Safety Academy, their multimedia resources center dedicated to safety culture. This is the first logic.




There is a second logic because other uses have been established. So, long ago, Nuclear Safety has been translated by « sûreté nucléaire » which is the meaning of the letters SN in ASN (« Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire ») and IRSN (« Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire »). In order to be consistent with the previous logic, one should speak of « sécurité nucléaire ».


On the contrary, in matter of digital malevolence, one speaks of « sécurité des systèmes d’information » which is the meaning of the letters SSI in ANSSI (« Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’information »)... and one speaks about « cybersécurité ». The false friend security has played tricks on us. In order to respect the previous logic, one should speak of  « sûreté des systèmes d’information » and « cybersécurité ».


Thus, there is a lack of consistency in the language. It seems that the first logic is more legitimate and IMdR is ready to defend it. Nevertheless one may prefer the contrary. And one can be happy to live with these problems of language and permanently  explain what is understood by safety and security. The force of uses is such that this latter hypothesis is the most likely...


Then one should carry on speaking English to be understood!


Philippe LePoac
IMdR chairman

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Dernière modification : 07/12/2018