We took this picture at the entrance to the Pont Saint-Bénezet, the famous bridge in Avignon mostly because I find the term “vigi-pirate” so amusing. You see, the “plan vigi-pirate” was in effect during both of my year-long stints in France. When I was a high school exchange student, it was in effect due to Algerian terrorist bombs going off in Paris. Then it was reinstated the year I was teaching English in Lille after September 11th.
Now I bet you are wondering what on earth is a “vigi-pirate”, since AFAIK the word does not exist in English, despite the local attempts at translation. I used to use the term to refer to the beret-wearing, machine-gun-carrying French soldiers who patrolled the Lille malls occasionally giving North African adolescents a hard time, but I don’t think that was technically correct. Fortunately, my favorite online French-English dictionary is there to help. Here is the official translation from wordreference.com:
an emergency plan to reinforce police and military security, bringing an increased uniformed presence in public places at times of potential disorder, terrorist attacks, etc.
To get really nerdy on a language level, the word comes from two other words: vigie*, which means “watch”, and pirate, which, in addition to the obvious translation, means “hijacker”.
*vigie comes from the same Latin root that give us the word “vigilance”