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.