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Fake news: French language body urges alternative phrase

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A group of French grammarians have declared war on “fake news”.

Bravo, you might be thinking.

But rather than false headlines or biased information, it is the English expression itself they want to get rid of.

The Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language (Celf) has asked French speakers to use the phrase “information fallacieuse” instead of the term “fake news”, which was popularised by Donald Trump.

Or if that is too long-winded, CELF suggested the abbreviation “infox”, formed from the words “information” and “intoxication”.

“The Anglo-Saxon expression ‘fake news’, which refers to a range of behaviour contributing to the misinformation of the public, has rapidly prospered in French,” the commission rued.

“This is an occasion to draw on the resources of the language to find French equivalents.”

France has long fought the dilution of its language by English intruders, which often sneak in as slang.

Celf published its plea in the government gazette, and offered alternatives for those not keen on “infox”.

Its choices – “nouvelle fausse”, “fausse nouvelle” and “information fausse” – all basically mean “false news”.

Celf, a group of academics and cultural figures formed in 1996, is not the only body campaigning to keep French… well, French.

There’s also the Academie Francaise, a 400-year-old institution which is the official authority on the French language – and gets the vapours at the mere sight of the word “email”. (That’s “un courriel” to you.)

Will “infox” catch on? Well, given the reception ordinary French speakers usually give to such orders… the answer’s probably “non”.

“Le binge-drinking?” – More phrases Celf wants swapped for French

So far, the folks at Celf have produced more than 7,900 French alternatives for English sayings – including binge drinking (“beuverie express”), hashtag (“mot-diese”) and big data (“megadonnees”).

They’re only suggestions, of course; but if you want to keep the purists happy, you should also avoid referring to your smartphone (that’s a “mobile multifonction”), watching a smart TV (“televiseur connecté”), or surfing the dark web – the “internet clandestin”.

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