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France Says ‘Au Revoir’ to the Word ‘Smartphone’

Hoping to prevent English tech vocabulary from entering the French language, officials have suggested ‘mobile multifunction’ as an alternative

A "mobile multifonction" or "mobile" in action. (iStock/LDProd)
smithsonian.com

In an effort to keep pesky English words from creeping into the French language, officials in France have been coming up with alternatives to some of the more common phrases of the digital age. In the past, the official journal of the French Republic—the Journal officielhas suggested "internet clandestin" instead of the term dark net. It's dubbed a casual gamer "joueur occasionnel" for messieurs and "joueuse occasionnelle" for mesdames. To replace hashtag, it's selected "mot-dièse." Now, as the Local reports, the latest word to get the official boot in France is smartphone. It's time to say bonjour to the "le mobile multifonction."

The recommendation was put forth by the Commission d'enrichissement de la langue française, which works in conjunction with the Academie Française to preserve the French language. This isn’t the first time that the commission has tried to encourage French citizens to switch over to a Franco-friendly word for “smartphone.” Previous suggestions included “ordiphone” (from “ordinateur,” the French word for computer) and “terminal de poche” (or pocket terminal). These, it seems, did not quite stick.

"Mobile multifonction" may not be the catchiest of terminologies, but “mobile” has been deemed an acceptable truncation. The commission made a number of other lexical recommendations. Instead of smart TV, for instance, the commission suggested that French speakers say “Televiseur connecté.” A relatively straightforward translation was offered for net neutrality: “neutralité de l’internet.”

Today’s guardians of the French language may be particularly concerned with tech phrases, but the battle against English influences has been waged for decades. As Natasha Frost notes in Atlas Obscura, France’s first official committee to protect—and expand— the country’s vocabulary was established in 1966.

The latest set of recommendations was published in Journal officiel on Friday, meaning that government texts are now required suggested terms, according to the Agence France-Presse. Whether the general public can be convinced to get on board with “mobile multifonction” … well, that’s another matter entirely

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer is based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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