William Alexander in the NY Times has fun with “the stunning announcement that France is giving up the fight to keep English words out of the French language”:
This sudden reversal of four centuries of French linguistic policy was issued by the minister of culture, Fleur Pellerin, who declared that France’s resistance to the incursion of English words was harming — rather than preserving — the language. “French is not in danger, and my responsibility as minister is not to erect ineffective barriers against languages but to give all our citizens the means to make it live on,” Ms. Pellerin told an audience assembled for the opening of French Language and Francophonie Week in March, acknowledging in one sentence both the futility and misguidedness of the battle. […]
Most of the debate today centers on dealing with English technology terms such as “hashtag” and “cloud computing.” But in fact the backlash against English encroachment into French started in the pre-computer age, when officials became alarmed over the country’s infatuation with “le jogging” and eating “les cheeseburgers” on “le week-end.” […]
Yet despite these many laws and commissions (at least 20 that govern the French language) there’s still that vexing “hashtag” (or as the Ministry of Culture would have you call it — at least up until a couple of weeks ago — mot-dièse) problem. The ministry relies on specialized terminology commissions for finding French replacements for new words of foreign influence, and in theory the task is straightforward: take a foreign term such as “Wi-Fi” and come up with a French equivalent other than “le Wi-Fi.” Unfortunately, the tendency of the French to be verbose works greatly to their disadvantage, especially in the Twitter age. The recommended replacement for “Wi-Fi” (which the French so adorably pronounce “wee-fee”) was the mouthful “accès sans fil à l’Internet,” literally “access without wire to the Internet.” Which is why you see signs for “Wi-Fi” all over France.
I suspect that the French don’t realize that “Wi-Fi” doesn’t even make sense in English.[…]