French linguistic watchdog issues edict: It’s not esports, it’s ‘jeu video de competition’


France’s national linguistic watchdog, the Académie Française, has banned the official use of some expressions borrowed from English to describe the world of gaming.

Instead of ‘esports’, government employees should refer to ‘jeu video de competition’. Instead of talking about ‘pro-gamers’, they should discuss the activity of the ‘joueur professionnel’. And instead of “streamers”, they should refer to the “joueur-animateur and direct” – and so on.

The changes, reported by AFPwere prepared in consultation with the French Ministry of Culture and published in the official legal almanac of the government, the news official† This makes the changes binding on officials, but not the general public.

It is the latest skirmish in the Académie’s centuries-long struggle to preserve the purity of the French language, especially of English poisons. The institution is one of the oldest in France and was founded in 1635 by the powerful politician Cardinal Richelieu, who sought to centralize the functions of the French state. The Académie’s duties include the promotion of French literature and the maintenance of the country’s official dictionary, which is issued to government agencies and similar organizations.

French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel enters the Institut de France whose members are known in France as immortals

The Académie Française is made up of just 40 members, known as les immortels or ‘the immortals’. They have a very classy uniform.
Photo by Luc Castel/Getty Images

However, the Académie’s tasks have become particularly challenging in recent years, as the dominance of the US technology sector has seeded Anglophone terms on French soil. In the past, the Académie had to invent a number of French equivalents for words and expressions that emerged from new technology: from “hashtag” (“mot-dièse”) to “sexting” (“textopornographie”) and even “e-mail” ( ” courier”).

In a report published earlier this yearwarned the Académie that the increasing use of English and hybrid “Franglais” terms could have disastrous consequences for the French language and create new barriers to communication.

“Many Anglicisms are used in place of existing French words or expressions, inevitably leading to the gradual erasing of the French equivalents,” the report said. “Aside from fashion and sports, the internet and the digital field is unsurprisingly most strongly and visibly ‘anglicised’.”

While the Académie’s work is certainly prescriptive rather than descriptive, it certainly does not exercise undisputed authority over francophones themselves. Linguists have found that efforts to eradicate English loanwords are not always successfuland English-language French publication the local notes that the Académie’s recent failures include an attempt to rename “le wifi” to “l’access sans fil à internet”. The term never caught on – ut c’est la vie.


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