In France, 40 immortals carry swords and—as part of their solemn duty as vanguards of the French language—just coined a new term for sexting. If a Frenchman asks how you feel about “textopornographie” or the sending of a “sexto,” that’s what he’s talking about.
L’Académie française is the government’s top authority on the language. Its members, in addition to being called les immortels, are sometimes called French’s “language police.”
Founded in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, members of the Académie have an official costume that dates back to Napoleon—complete with Napoleonic bicorne hat and a ceremonial sword (see Edmond Rostand, to the right, dressed in the Academie's uniform)—and it is France’s official authority grammar, usage, and vocabulary. The Académie’s General Commission on Terminology and Word Invention released its list of words it wants to see phased out of French and their new replacements.
In recent decades, one of English’s most reliable Trojan horses into French has been tech terminology. The tech tongue moves quickly, without respect for international borders or language professors. But in defense from this onslaught, the Académie has invented French words to replace the English invaders. In the past the Walkman was renamed baladeur, email became courriel in 2003, and the Académie moved to replace “hashtag” with mot-dièse last year.
This year, in addition to “textopornographie” being introduced (in both verb and noun form), the Académie suggested that “vidéoagression” replace “happy slapping,” which is the British term for what America calls the “knockout game,” and also suggested French terms for child pornography, prenuptial agreements, and forensic photography. It was a bit of a mishmash.
For what its worth, those who are most defensive of English tech terms invading French aren’t even in France. Surrounded by English speakers, the Office Québécois de la Langue Française in Canada coined baladodiffusion to use instead of podcast, clavardage instead of chat, and pourriel instead of spam.
It might seem like a losing battle, but Carol Sanders, a professor at the University of Surrey, told Metro in 2012 that French more than ready to adapt in the internet age. "Though briefly LOL was used [by the French], people now write MDR (mort de rire)," she told Metro.
The language will keep changing anyway—borrowing and exchanging words is obviously de rigueur for languages—but the Académie Française is determined that when the French sext, they're still doing so in the language of love.