France Bids Adieu to the Word ‘Hashtag’

In a bid to preserve the French language, the government has officially banned the common Twitter word 'hashtag' and suggests replacing it with 'mot-dièse'

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Bon voyage, “hashtag.” French tweeters, say hello to the “mot-dièse.”

France is taking on Twitter by officially banishing the word “hashtag” and suggesting a Gallic replacement — which translates to “sharp word” in English — as an alternative.

The ban is part of the French government’s ongoing effort to preserve the purity of the French language, despite the increasingly common use of English words and phrases across the country. The Local reports that the decision has been handed down by the Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologisme, the French language police who are officially charged with encouraging “the presence of the French language on social media networks.”

The same governing group announced a ban on the word “e-mail” in 2003, instead asking citizens to check their “courriel.” And in 2011, the French broadcast authority banned any mention of “Facebook” and Twitter” on radio and television unless the words were integral to the story.

France has recently run into other issues with the social network. The New York Times reports that a French court has told Twitter that the company must identify users behind racist posts (and hashtags) on its site.

And while France isn’t requiring citizens to use the word, news of the change has spread far and wide. How did citizens of the Internet respond? With a resounding cry of “hashtag fail!” Excusez moi — “mot-dièse fail!”

Many Internet users and websites pointed out that France’s preferred phrase is not only inelegant but also incorrect. A sharp refers to the musical term “♯” (note the slanted parallel lines) whereas a hash or pound symbol “#” signifies a number.

And at the end of the day, mot-dièse just doesn’t have quite the same je ne sais quoi.

5 comments
annemariecoutu
annemariecoutu

French people have this annoying habit to always translate things too litteraly. It always gives us the impression that a random dude in the street suggested the first thing that popped in his mind. French people may well criticize the French from their old colony, the province of Quebec, but Quebekers were the ones to invent first the word "courriel" and an equivalent for hastag: "mot-clic". The real problem in France is that they wait way too long before suggesting a French alternative, they wait after people have gotten used to the English word. So it always sounds horrible, no matter what.

Laetitia
Laetitia

In the province of Québec (Canada), they use the word "mot-clic", which, I think, sounds much better than "mot-dièse"... just my opinion.

conniexplore
conniexplore

Chinese government do the same to protect the language, by banning vocab like NBA etc. When you come up with a good translation, everyone will use it naturally, but if you just do literal translation, people won't accept the "weird term", so of course they will still prefer the original version.

Vaughan
Vaughan

The powerful thing about english is that it unabashedly steals words from other languages and incorporates the new ideas and concepts which come along with them.  The lexicon keeps growing 'naturally.'   Mind you, it makes a hell of a mess in terms of continuity.  For every 'rule' about spelling and grammar, there are tonnes of annoying exceptions.  'Goose and geese'  but why not 'Moose and and meese?'  Multiple spellings for the same sound...  Homonyms... and on... and on... and on...

Still, having to officially 'manufacture' clumsy approximations does not seem quite right.

fallinsfree
fallinsfree

pretty good idea, honestly. as a native german speaker, it sounds just horrible to hear a conversation about in this case the intenet/computers/tech, and it sounds like someone merely speaking english with improper enunciation. merely german conjunctions connecting english terms and lingo. awful!