French…Fried with a Side of English

“French say ‘non’ to the term hashtag in battle to stop English words violating their language:

The French Government has banned the Twitter term ‘hashtag’ from all official documents in their latest bid to ban a torrent of English words invading their language.

The Government’s powerful Académie française has decreed that the French word ‘mot-dièse’ must be spoken when the ‘#’ symbol appears in print.

Teachers have been told to urge schoolchildren to use the term, and the media has also been asked to avoid using the English word.

Non, non, non: these English-speaking Twitter users are unimpressed with l’Academie’s solution

The outlawing of ‘hashtag’ is the latest in a flood of orders from the Académie, the state body appointed to protect the French language.

The French culture ministry recently put up a huge list of English words on its website which it said had slipped into common French usage and should be banned.

These included ’email’, ‘blog’, ‘supermodel’, ‘take-away’, ‘chewing gum’, ‘parking’, ‘weekend’ and ‘low-cost airline’.

Now the Goverment’s Official Journal, which publishes new laws and decrees, wrote this week: ‘The English term hashtag should wherever possible be replaced with the French term “mot-dièse”.’ The plural is mots-diese.

Seat of power: l’Academie exists to preserve the purity of the French language and has also resisted words such as ‘take-away’ and ‘weekend’

But critics swiftly pointed out that the two words are technically different, with the English hashtag symbol leaning to the right and denoting an abbreviation for ‘number’, equivalent to ‘no.’,
while the ‘dièse’ – the French term for the ‘sharp’ sign used in music – is vertical.

Users of Twitter took to the site to air their views. Some complained that you can’t hashtag mot-dièse because it contains a hyphen. Another noted the news with the mocking hashtag #fightingalosingbattle.

Critics charged if a French word must be found for the contentious symbol, then it should be ‘croisillon’ (meaning cross-piece or lattice) rather than a dièse (sharp sign). Several users tried to generate momentum for their campaign using the hashtag (sorry, mot-dièse) #teamcroisillon.

La resistance! Another faction calls for the word ‘croisillon’ to be used instead of ‘mot-diese’

The hashtag is just one foreign invasion l’Académie is wishing to see off. Even such obscure terms as ‘shadow-boxing’, ‘detachable motor caravan’ and ‘multifunctional industrial building’ were blacklisted over 65 pages of forbidden vocabulary on the Journal’s website.

Scientists were told to no longer refer to ‘serial analysis of gene expression’ and ‘suppression subtractive hybridisation’.

And television sports commentators are being advised to stop using the word ‘coach’ or ‘corner’ for football matches. They should instead say ‘entraineur’ and ‘coup de pied de coin’.

The French Government commissioned a report into English usage two years ago, which warned that the global domination of Anglo-Saxon culture had plunged the future of the French language into a ‘deep crisis’.

The report said: ‘English-speakers have a vision of the so-called English-speaking world, but an equivalent concept does not seem to exist in France.

‘Despite having 200 million French-speakers on earth, the idea of a French-speaking world is becoming obsolete.

‘France is failing to promote its own language, and there seems to be very little interest in doing so.”



13 thoughts on “French…Fried with a Side of English

  1. chef mimi says:

    This is just too funny!

      • chef mimi says:

        I remember being at my mom’s famiy home in Nancy, in 1974, and everyone was discussing world issues, as the French seem to always love to do, in my experience, and my mother turned to me and said, “how do you say pollution in French?” And everyone yelled out “pollution” with a French accent, of course. Seems to me like the english words have been invading the French language for a very long time….

  2. Jennifer says:

    Very interesting. Not sure how I feel about it. I certainly understand the reasoning behind the decisions made by the Académie Française.

  3. colormusing says:

    As much as I love France, the French, and their language, I think the greater threat is their resistance to change. I understand the difference between the ancient French language and my own– American English, like the U.S., is a conglomeration of many languages, but it’s also a language that thrives on constant change. History, of which the French tend to be much more aware than many, has proven over and over that it is precisely the ones who fear change that become obsolete. Ironique, non?

  4. I couldn’t agree more – the French are very resistant to change and are not generally out-of-the-box thinkers, which is stagnating and self-defeating for them and the society as a whole, especially in business.

  5. cteachr says:

    This sentence said it all: ‘France is failing to promote its own language, and there seems to be very little interest in doing so.”

    Use it or lose it. In Quebec, they’ve had to heavily legislate the use of French to keep the culture going. France may be the mother country, but it is not immune to cultural erosion.

  6. I agree – cultural erosion, as a result of increased globalization, needs to be controlled and maintained – thanks for commenting.

  7. nomadgen says:

    It’s a very interesting topic. But as far as I know, french speakers in Quebec are even more loyal to french language than those in metropolitan (France). My quebecois friend said that even movie titles were translated to french while here in France we can notice that instead of translating those titles, they recreated new titles in English.
    Mind that the birth of french language (as many other languages) took place in the street, in the middle of merchants’ chit-chat and from latin (vulgar/popular one) mixed with several other languages. Many words we use in french or english, in that matter, were “inspired” by latin and btw, pollution is derived from latin and not english.
    But in this dièse/hashtag case, I think they (Académie Française) tend to continue the misuse of this symbol # which, of course, every phone operator in France would say “appuyer sur le dièse…”).

    • Hashtag/diese is also referred to as the “pound sign” in American English, so language is certainly not one dimensional, and therefore, difficult to control. I agree that Quebec seems more protective of the French language, perhaps because they are physically surrounded by English language influences. Thanks for your interesting and informative comment!

  8. […] read a couple of blog posts by 24/7 in France recently: This one and This Other One about the French government’s attempts at preserving the French language […]

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