French language police crack down on ‘sexting’

French language police have handed down a brand new list of forbidden English words and phrases – from “sexting” to “happy slapping”. Find out what the Gallic versions are that they want used instead. Is France right to ban Anglicisms?

French language police crack down on 'sexting'
French language police have handed down a brand new list of forbidden English words and phrases – from “sexting” to “happy slapping”. Photo: ProJuventute/Flickr

The French resistance to English is back in the news in France again after the country’s linguistic chiefs published a list of English terms that they want eliminated from everyday usage in France.

The list, published on Friday, is just the latest retaliatory strike by France's language police in what some have described as an admirable but ultimately futile battle against the invasion of the language of Molière by English words and phrases.

Nevertheless, the French now have a new batch of forbidden phrases to join the likes of “binge drinking” and “cloud computer", which they outlawed earlier this year.

The General Commission on Terminology and Word Invention, which is tasked with promoting the French language, has also helpfully supplied the Gallic versions to be used in their place.

So instead of “le sexting” – sending sexually explicit text messages – the commission at the Ministry of Culture wants the French to use the longer but perhaps clearer French version – “textopornographie”. And instead of a "sex text", shortened in English to a "sext", – basically an explicit text or multi-media message, the commission wants the French to use "sexto" or even “textopornographique” instead.

GALLERY: English terms the language police want barred from French

It wasn't just the sending if naughty texts and picture messages the commission wanted de-Anglicised. 

When the French want to describe the act of filming a random violent attack on a stranger, the French must now use “vidéoagression”, and not “le happy slapping.”

For the practice used by paedophiles to identify potential abuse victims, the French are expected to use “pédopiégeage”, instead of “le grooming,” and for forensic photography, the proper French term is now “photographie de scène de crime.”

Instead of "agreement prénuptial," the right phrase is "accord prénuptial."

For the commission's full list of henceforth-forbidden English phrases, and their French replacements, click here.

It is not just the Commission who are trying to stem the tide of Anglicisms in French. Union leaders at the supermarket Carrefour have also launched a petition entitled: "No to the Anglicisation of Carrefour in France or Europe" aimed at ridding supermarket aisles of English words.

"We want to remind people that the language of business is the language of the client and in France the client speaks French," arguethe CGT union.

The CGT wants the names of the various Carrefour stores to be changed. Carrefour Drive should be "Carrefour au Volant", Carrefour City and will be changed to "Carrefour Coeur de Ville" (heart of the town) if the union gets its way.

To hear what the language police themselves have to say about the need to protect French, you can read The Local's interview with one of their officers, by clicking here.

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French elections: What is ‘parrainage’ and how does it affect candidates?

If you follow French politics, it's about this time that you will start to see a lot of mentions of parrainage - here's what that means and how it affects the race for the presidency.

French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?

The French word parrainage means sponsorship or guardianship and it comes from parrain – godfather.

Just as in English, parrain can be used in its literal sense for a child’s godfather (godmother is marraine) or a more general sense for anyone who is a powerful figure – the classic mafia movie The Godfather is Le Parrain in France.

But in the context of presidential elections it has a more specific meaning, which is to do with how you get onto the ballot paper.

In order to be a candidate in a French election you have to be a French citizen aged 18 years or over. 

But you also need to collect at least 500 signatures (or parrainages) from elected officials to back your campaign.

These can be from anyone elected to public office from village mayors to MPs, MEPs and Senator but there are some rules – the officials must come from at least 30 different French départements or overseas French territories and no more than 50 signatures can come from one département or overseas territory.

This year, candidates have until March 4th to gain the signatures they need, if you’re on French social media you may recently have spotted lots of obscure politicians tweeting pictures of either a signed form or a letter being popped into the postbox – they’re making a public declaration of their parrainage.

You don’t need to be on Twitter though, the names of all the officials who have given their signatures will be published on March 8th, along with the list of candidates who have gained the required 500 and therefore their place on the ballot paper. 

Until that date, the question of who has the required numbers of parrainages is the subject of a lot of speculation and newspaper headlines, as well as charts like the one below, which are generally based on public declarations of support.

You can follow all the latest news and explanations of the 2022 presidential election campaign HERE.