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Official French language snobs have a new word for ‘sexting’
It’s a mouthful.
The verb “sexting” isn’t the wittiest coinage, but Americans are crazy for portmanteaux these days. Still, unimpressed and looking to avoid the accidental incorporation of another term like “le weekend” into the French vernacular, L’Académie Francaise has coined an even more embarrassing word: “textopornographie.” (A single sext you may refer to as a “textopornographique” or “sexto,” if you think you can do so with a straight face.)
The Académie’s Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologism came up with the terms in their most recent batch of official language updates, many of which seek to keep the French language on a short leash by providing nationally approved translations for the expressions popularized by filthy foreigners. Ever since 1635, when the institution was founded by Cardinal Richelieu, they have tried to stem the pollution of their mother tongue.
It’s not just pointless prescriptivism, either: while we blithely break the rules of Strunk & White, the 40 so-called “immortals” of the semi-mystic intellectual group had some success getting citizens to switch from “LOL” to “MDR,” for “mort de rire,” or “dying of laughter.” In previous years, Beatabeat reported, they substituted “courriel” for “email” and “mot-dièse” for “hashtag,” always heading off any tech-based concessions to English.
Given those other suggestions, “textopornographique” leaves a little something to be desired; it’s awfully clinical, and the appellation of “porn” to a steamy digital correspondence between people who theoretically know each other is certainly wide of the mark. Meanwhile, the word’s length and compound structure render it almost—dare we say it?—German. Sadly, they just say “sexting” over there. Probably because they’re busy actually doing it.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'