Vigipirate Logo (taken from on Dec. 7, 2015 and converted to png)
Vigipirate Logo (taken from on Dec. 7, 2015 and converted to png)

After the recent attacks here in Paris, the government has raised its terror threat level. But here it’s not called the threat level, it’s called the “Plan Vigipirate”.

It’s serious, but I sort of giggled the first few times I saw this. How did this get to be the sign for heightened security. I’ve asked around, and nobody seems to be sure.

My favorite explanation came from one of my colleagues who thought the word may have come from a lookout in a ship’s crow’s nest — being vigilant in keeping a lookout for pirates. The colleague admits that he probably made that up when he was about 10 years old.

The most reasonable explanation I could find (which doesn’t actually mean it’s right 🙂 was from French Wikipedia which quotes someone as saying “Le tout premier a Ă©tĂ© crĂ©Ă© en 1961, lors du putsch des GĂ©nĂ©raux d’Alger. Ils menaçaient de faire sauter des parachutistes sur Paris, notamment sur l’assemblĂ©e Nationale. Un PLAN, sur cartographie a Ă©tĂ© Ă©tabli par ce service, il consistait Ă  renforcer la garde de l’assemblĂ©e Nationale, qui s’effectuait par des VIGIES ( Gardes RĂ©publicain) dans les guĂ©rites en bois de l’époque, les « PIRATES » dĂ©signaient les parachutistes qui venaient en sorte abordĂ© le bâtiment comme au temps des corsaires : d’oĂą le nom VIGIPIRATE.”

Basically, it says that came about during the “Algerian Putsch” of 1961 when there were fears of a coup originating in Algeria. There seems to be vague references and associations between Algeria, hence corsairs, hence pirates. So, they had to be vigilant against pirates. Vigipirate.

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