Say 'infox', not 'fake news'

French language chiefs have decreed that instead of ‘fake news’ people should say infox in French.

4 October 2018
By Oliver Rowland

The unusually-snappy term has been listed in Le Journal Officiel today and should be used by anyone concerned to avoid anglicisms and especially by all public bodies. However if they prefer, they can say information fallacieuse.

Infox comes from information and intoxication – the latter in French meaning not only intoxication in the literal sense, but acting in an ‘insidious way on people’s minds’, to spread propaganda or otherwise influence them in a way that undermines their ability to think critically.

Top language body the Commission d’enrichissement de la langue française defines infox as information that is lying or deliberately biased, for example aiming to discredit a political party, harm the reputation of a person or company, or undermine an established scientific truth.

According to technology news site Next INpact, the commission expressed itself in some background notes as being ‘glad to support the creation of a new word likely to please the general public’.

Infox had been suggested by an internet user in the Boite à Idées feature on government language site France Terme It was preferred to some other suggestions such as fallace or infausse.

Terms promoted by government language experts to fight against too many anglicisms in French have had mixed success. For example courriel (from courrier électronique) is somewhat widely used as an alternative to un e-mail or un mail.

Mot dièse (literally ‘sharp’ word, as in the musical term) for hashtag and beuverie expresse for ‘binge-drinking’ were less successful, and imagette for thumbnail (image) does not seem to have caught on. However they still roll off the tongue a bit better than some offerings such as textopornographie for sexting or nouveau terminal mobile de poche for smartphone.

As for France’s use of ordinateur – unlike many languages which adopted 'computer' – this is less due to language boffins and more because it has been used in France since the 1950s, more or less at the same time as computer became popular in the USA. What is more, some commentators have pointed out that if you articulate it, com-put-er does not sound very good in French…

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