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.