What’s in a Tag?

This weekend I was reading about a recent announcement made by the French commission in charge of protecting the purity of the French language (the Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie, for those of you interested in such things).

The commission has decreed that the term hashtag  (you know, ‘#’ placed in front a word to make it easier to search for a topic on Twitter) is to be used in French no more. Instead it should now be known as a mot-dièse.

French people are criticizing the choice of word because it actually refers to a sharp sign (♯) rather than a hash symbol (#). This point explained to me why the sharp sign had suddenly become a hash. It hadn’t.  I’d just never seen the two side-by-side before and now realize they are two quite different things (embarrassing ignorance). They are also saying that people already used to talking about hashtags are unlikely to start using the term anyway, making this change merely an academic statement rather than something practical and useful.

This whole thing started me thinking. How many of us had even heard of a hashtag just a few years ago? Is it an English word, or is it just a “Twitter word” – specific to that particular medium of communication? I can’t help thinking it is a jargon word for a very specific area of communications rather than a “regular” English word? Still, it’s interesting to see the words the French commission comes up with to replace foreign loan words. Wouldn’t that be a fun kind of job to have?

I had my own ‘tag’ issue this weekend, too. I wanted something to hold together all the file cards I will be using for some classes I’m taking this semester. In the UK, I would have gone and bought myself some treasury tags. It occurred to me that I didn’t recall seeing any here. I asked my husband if he thought I could find them at an office supply store. He’d never heard of a treasury tag (and the more I keep saying it, the stranger it sounds), so I looked on the Office Depot website. Nothing there, and I’ve now decided to use a small box instead anyway, but I still wonder if they are sold in the US, and if they have a different name. They are short pieces of thick string with a strip of metal at each end. You thread the metal through a hole in a sheet of paper, and it falls flat against the hole so that it doesn’t slip out, neatly keeping your papers together.

Here’s a picture: pimporntreasurytag3(source: http://phajae.exteen.com/20090507/treasury-tags)

Do people use these in the US?



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