New words come to life everyday. Without realising it, we welcome, use and throw away thousands loads of words in our written and spoken communication. Most of these are forged in the internet universe, the global grid in which we all live nowadays. The example of the term ‘hashtag‘ is absolutely representative of such trend. ‘Hash‘ is a word which appears to have first been recorded in the XVII Century and shares the same etymology as ‘hatchet‘ indicating the action of chopping or the result of the action itself (synonyms as a noun may then be ‘mess‘ or ‘muddle‘). Its usage in the pre-Twitter era was simply that of introducing a number: #3 may then simply be read as ‘number 3′. However, the word ‘hash‘ was then followed by a suffix which indicated its new role in the world of communication: ‘tag‘. A ‘hashtag‘ now introduces a word, may it be a verb, a noun, an adjective, anything really, that forms a sort of category, an index that will allow users to find related post, images, texts, or anything else that was tagged.
The question is: when words come to life in such way, do we have to adapt to it on a global scale? Is there anyone forming a linguistic resistance? The perception of English assaulting terms in other, foreign languages is quite sensible in French-speaking countries among all European states. Could it be the long-lasting rivalry between all that is British and all that is French that is causing this? Or are the French, being so close to their frenemies, more aware of the fact that they have to keep their own identity from being influenced? The internet is where new words form nowadays; it is like a parallel world that spits out neologisms everyday, and the majority of them is in English. How should other languages react? Should Italians adopt and not adapt to the new words? Italians do say ‘cancelletto‘ to define the hashtag; however, when applied to the world of Twitter or tags, it comes out untranslated. And perhaps this was also happening in France when the Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologisme encouraged the French to start calling it ‘mot-dièse‘ on a wider scale.
One might wonder why, in most cases, it is always a matter of translation from English to other languages. Is it just a coincidence? Probably not. Any invention and innovation is likely to find an easy way of dissemination by passing through a medium that is known, the language that people use most. If a Frenchman invented something new, are we sure he would give it a French name? Would he not be tempted to give it a name that belongs to a language which is spoken in all the continents. Linguistic choices have little to do with history and patriotism when it comes to convenience.
Ironic how the original word ‘hash‘ has French origins.