France Bans Gamer Words

France Bans Gamer Words
Image: Getty

French officials, on a quest to ‘preserve the purity’ of the French language have taken aim at tech and gaming jargon.

As reported by The Guardian, the French culture ministry has handed down new rules on English gamer jargon that needs to change or be omitted from any government correspondence. Government workers must also avoid the jargon entirely or use authorised terminology.

Which, I’ll admit, sounds awfully authoritarian when put like that. However, that’s not really what this is. It’s less about policing what people say, and more about making sure they have a locally-sourced way to say it. The broad sentiment is “We should have a word for that,” but approaching that problem in the most French way imaginable.

As The Guardian noted, certain terms can be easily translated into French. ‘Pro-gamer’, for instance, becomes ‘jouneur professionnel. Others, like ‘streamer’, pose more of a problem. Cloud gaming has become ‘jeu video en nuage’, and ‘esports’ is ‘jeu video de competition.’ According to the culture ministry, it performed an exhaustive search of various video game websites and magazines to double-check for pre-existing French terms. Where none were found, it proceeded to eliminate the gamer words, with the goal, it says, to ‘allow the population to communicate more easily.’

France’s culture ministry told AFP that it considered the video game industry’s reliance on anglicisms to be ‘a barrier to understanding’ for those not directly immersed in the games space.

Declarations like this are not uncommon in France. The crusade to protect the French language from English jargon is centuries old at this point, presided over by a language watchdog, Académie Française. For the most part, the Académie has pointed the finger of blame for all these foreign words directly at Britain. It has only more recently turned its sights on the US. It is particularly irritated by English loanwords, like ‘computer’, which are typically read or spoken without translation.

To combat this, the Académie tends to recommend neologisms, newly created words derived from ones that already exist. ‘Computer’ is a good example of this in practice; the Académie recommends French speakers refer to the computer as ‘ordinateur’. The word was coined in 1955 by professor of philology Jacques Perret because he felt that ‘calculateur’ didn’t go far enough to describe the device in question.

The changes, which went into effect on Monday, were entered into the official journal, making them binding for government workers.


  • The irony here is that these terms are going to cause far more confusion with the general French public than the English terms will, because nobody knows what the official government terminology is and I doubt they care either.

    • Well no, because that is not how language works and especially with the pride the French feel for their language, which can not be underestimated. If they somehow manage to survive in a world where the things we know as the computer, they know of l’ordinateur, they can handle a steamer being called something else. Just like how Japan calls what we consider a green light, blue. Language is a complex and movable beast, to the French its value and pride is without measure.

      • Except that modern French words are derived from the latin or english word, to the point that these official replacements are mostly latin/english.

        Take esports. Its an english shorthand for electronic sports. So des sport electronique would seem more appropriate. Yes?

        So why did they go with jeu video de competition, which is video game competition? Which if they are doing this for french pride the only world that is technically french is “game” cause the french for video is video and the french for competition is competition???? Also this is a weird french insult for electronic sports, that have been trying really hard to be recognised on the international stage to be a sport that even the Olympics itself recognises…

        … only for the official language of the Olympics, being French, now having to call it a “video competition” FIRST before calling it an esport?

        So French culture is saying that French culture, is more important than esports own culture, by telling esports its own cultural identity of being called a sport is invalid?

        • This. French government doesn’t seem to realise that French culture doesn’t trump the ease of communication and livelihood of the professionals already working in the field with established terminology. The government can wheel out whatever misguided butthurt pride they want, it doesn’t change that it’s trying to forcefully insert itself into a work field that doesn’t care about government neurosis and obsession over renaming an industry that originated outside of France.

          • I love the fact when someone on social media says something stupid like ‘the government doesnt understand’, Im sorry what is your actual qualification that makes you thoroughly more knowledge than the ministry whose job it is to deal with such issues? Clearly they would be under no illusion that the public will keep using the slang terms, but their job isnt to police every private use of the words but to ensure OFFICIALLY that those slang words are represented by language more suited with the preservation of their language. Some people here seem to think this is the first time this has happened to their language, nah it happens all the time.

          • “Im sorry what is your actual qualification that makes you thoroughly more knowledge than the ministry whose job it is to deal with such issues?”

            Because the actual French gaming industry already made that decision and they’re far more qualified than the boomers in the French government, by virtue of operating in that industry as it was founded in France. Fact is that the professionals don’t give two shits about your or the French government’s sobbing over “official language” when they already use the language that they feel best works for their profession. The professionals already made their decision about what works for them and it doesn’t align with the French government’s desperate attempt at relevance while their entire country is on fire in all of the areas that matter.

        • ‘So French culture is saying that French culture’… yeah no that is your reading of it. Every language on the planet calls different things, different words. Sometimes they make sense some times they might not seem the most logical of choices. Language is complicated and just because, in theory, video does mean video and competition does mean competition, in reality, those words do not always directly translate to the precise meaning we have for them in English.

          I just think it is funny that you think the ministry who is in charge of preserving the foundation of their language, doesnt understand the nuance of their language, understand the repercussions for the enforcement of new words, but you?

  • Kojima was onto the right idea by comparing the English language and its imperialist envoys to parasites, but he didn’t go far enough.

  • *looks at this*
    *looks at the champions league final BS*
    *looks at Bill 96*

    Fuck do i hate the frenchies.

  • I am not saying they dont know their own language… I am saying they dont know the words they are forcibly replacing.

    esports = electronic sport.

    So why is it NOT de sport electronique? Or de sport deu video.

    Why does the French government refuse to call it a sport?

  • Reminds me of the Transmetropolitan series (Issue 11).
    In the lore of that world, France (unsuccessfully) fought ‘The War of Verbals’ to keep French the primary language of France, against the Borg-like encroachment of English. That was written in 1998 of an imagined far future.
    “English is an ugly, lurching fool of a language.”
    “But it communicates hate well.”

    It is already a cruel irony that the term ‘lingua franca’ now more commonly describes English than the original French.

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