x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A sharp new word

France's decision to ban the English word hashtag seems silly to some. But encouraging the use of the indigenous language is not a bad idea.

With the characteristic French flair for doing things comme il faut, or properly, that country's Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie - the language police agency - has decided to ban the English word "hashtag."

The new mot juste for that thing in Twitter ,the French people and media have been told, will henceforth be mot-dièse.

"Defined as a 'series of characters preceded by the # symbol', the word 'mot-dièse', literally meaning 'sharp word', will now be used in all official documents," a press report explained.

This is not just revenge for that American nonsense about "freedom fries"; it's part of a serious campaign to protect French from English.

Like all things related to social media, the new word caused a stir: many ridiculed it, some say they will not use it.

But language, as a vital component of a country's heritage, culture and history, sometimes needs protecting. Some in the Arab world are increasingly alarmed about the pressure Arabic faces, in its home countries, from English.

Indeed, having a dedicated body with the duty to encourage the use of the indigenous language is not a bad idea, especially if a country hosts many different languages.