France Renaming "Hashtag"

A French government commission responsible for protecting the French language from anglicisms has forbidden the Twitter term "hashtag" from all official correspondence.

France wants French Twitter users to stop referring to hashtags in favor of a new, au français definition: mot-dièse (sharp word).

The decision was made by a government office, the Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie, which is tasked with inventing French-language equivalents to foreign-language terms found popping up in France.

While Twitter users in France won't be penalized for referring to hashtags, all official French government legislation and correspondence will be required to refer to mot-dièses instead of hashtags. Back in 2003, the same commission mandated French citizens refer to email as courriel with some success. Compared to other Western governments, France actively takes an interventionist approach to Internet use within the country: Various protectionist Internet laws have been proposed, including taxing Internet companies for data mining. All this is in addition to paternalist policies surrounding the French language to stop cross-cultural fusion like le hamburger. Maybe they're just nostalgic for the days of the Minitel?

[Image: Flickr user Raphaël Labbé]

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13 Comments

  • J-F Puget

    One should not rely on google translate for translating "mot dièse"...

    The # character is called dièse in french, and hash sign in english, isn't it?
    Therefore the translation of "mot dièse" is "hash word", not that far from hash tag.

    Where "dièse" is related to "sharp" is for music.  "F sharp" is "Fa Dièse" in French.  But we aren't speaking about music here are we?

    This said, I don't think the proposed "mot dièse" will catch up

  • KaiserJay

    I understand their desire to protect their language, but could they have not just used an existing word such as "marquer" rather than define the hashtag as a musical symbol (♯ not #)?

  • Lawson Hembree

    I don't know what's more ridiculous: that this commission actually exists or that people actually get paid to "protect the French language." #sharpword

  • NomadOfNorad

    I have always perceived this, the tendency of the French powers-that-be to insist on this sort of language bullshit, to be a really snobbish, full-of-themselves, elitist thing, and as such I actually find it more than a little bit offensive.  I really do think that someday this sort of snobbish, elitist bullshit needs to be *outlawed*, and the small, full-of-themselves, French language committee permanently disbanded.

  • sensi

    They are translating terms which otherwise would mean nothing among official correspondence, so cut the voluntary misinterpretations and lies coming straight from the British xenophobic gutter-level tabloids and smell the coffee...

  • Strumpkin

    I suspect that being completely unregulated is a major part of the success of English. L'Academie Francaise is actually holding back the French language for some stupid, meaningless and pointless concern over the 'purity' of their language whereas English has new words almost every day. If new words meet a need they'll survive and they'll become disused if they don't.
    A language is what its speakers actually say in everyday conversation and if French speakers find it useful to use words borrowed from other languages then those words become part of the French language and no decree from l'Academie is going to stop it.

  • Robin

    Every large enough language has new words added to it constantly and the french were not concerned of this phenomenon per se. They just try to limit injection of foreign language words in French language. I am sympathetic to their concern while I am doubtful of effectiveness of their measures. At least in western world, colloquial language in most non-english speaking countries has become a terrible mix of our native and english words as well as distorted hybrid words. It really is a development worth fighting against.

  • AugustineThomas

    English is also bastardized and Anglo culture is disappearing into a multicultural meaningless blob at a faster rate than the French.

    Although the entire West is pretty much screwed.

  • swergen

    And we pay taxes for this kind of government office… What a waste. 
    The languages are living thing, the words travels. For example many french world are use in other languages. And sometime comeback like a boomerang : "mail", in french we use "mail" for "email", come from "Malle Postale", or "flirt" from french "compter fleutrette".  You're wrong about Corsican, Breton, Gallo and Occitan. You can learn them at school actually, some of road sign are in both languages french / regional, tv show in local broadcast too. Like many others nation, in the past France had to uniform the national language for a better communication, but yes it was rude sometime. 
    And you right about English. England was a former France Kingdom at this time and English is mostly ancient french (and a mix of germanic and gaelic). Honni soit qui mal y pense ;)

  • Christopher Caldwell

    They ruined English in 1066 now we are returning the favor!

    But seriously France has done absolutely nothing to help preserve languages like Corsican, Breton, Gallo, and Occitine , and was at one point was actively trying to stamp these languages out, so I am not going to shed any tears over the French language being "corrupted"