Je suis circonflexe

SOMETIMES it really is the little things that count. France faces high unemployment, a divided political establishment and surging xenophobia. But the issue that has the French particularly outraged is an argument about language.

Two decades ago the French Academy, a group of 40 greybeards charged with keeping the language pure, decided to reform French spelling. The government took its time with implementing the academy’s decisions. But, starting in the autumn, new school textbooks will at last comply. What has French social media in an uproar? The academy wants to simplify or regularise certain tricky spellings—allowing nénufar for nénuphar (water lily), and ditching a silent “i” in oignon, making it ognon (onion). But one change has symbolised all the others: maîtresse will become maitresse, and many other words will similarly lose the tricky little hat-shaped accent-mark that gives the online protest its name: #JeSuisCirconflexe.


It should take something serious to make the French…Continue reading


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