The news has hit this weekend that the Académie française, the venerable institution tasked with preserving and enriching the french language, has coined a new official term to combat the social media titan “hashtag”.
The hashtag and its concept has spread far beyond it’s best known home of Twitter; now you can find it on Facebook and other social media like Pinterest to mark a post or picture as belonging to a particular topic (even though it doesn’t work the same way on these platforms as it has been designed to on Twitter) – but you also see it used in blog post titles, comments, in fact almost any form of internet communication now can contain a hashtag form of a quip or one liner.
The Académie française hates this sorts of pervasive, all-encompassing Anglicism and so now they have released a new term to be used in official circumstances (although no doubt they’d prefer everyone used it).
There’s just one small problem with the new term mot-dièse that the internautes have had no hesitation in pointing out.
The word dièse actually refers to the musical notation for ‘sharp’; ♯ – which leans left. It is not the same as the hashtag symbol ; # which leans right.
In French # is called croisillon and my dictionary has the following entry (bold mine):
Symbole, également appelé carré, chemin de fer, octothorpe ou, abusivement, dièse, utilisé pour divers emplois en informatique, en téléphonie ou en typographie (peu usité en typographie française).
So my dictionary actually notes that dièse is an improperly used term for #, which makes what the Académie have done all the more absurd! Are they now so desperate to halt the tide of Anglicised techno-speak that they release an official term which contravenes the correct usage of the language they’re so obsessed with purifying? Granted, mot-carré is already in use for a type of word puzzle, and mot-chemin de fer or mot-octothorpe don’t exactly roll off the tongue; but surely the supposed authority on the french language could do better than this botched job.