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French onions to lose the 'i' as spelling changes spark uproar

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Photo: AFP
10:20 CET+01:00
French language traditionalists were in a spin on Thursday after it emerged schools have been reminded to take notice of a series of spelling changes in an effort to simplify the language. So say goodbye to the "i" in oignon.
The changes were actually approved by the language guardians Académie Française back in 1990 and adopted in the same year by the High Council of the French Language.
 
They appear to have remained hidden away until they were mentioned in a note buried in a 2015 bulletin from the education ministry reminding local education chiefs to take note of the spelling changes in the 2016 curriculum.
 
The changes make for interesting reading if you are a fan of the French language and have certainly caused a stir in France.
 
In all, there are 2,400 changes, with one of the headline ones seeing the circumflex accent disappear from above the letter i and u - but only on certain words.
 
That means it will vanish from words like, well, disappear (disparaître), and coût (cost).
 
It will continue to hang around above the letter o, in words like hôtel and won't be dropped on words like sûr, which would result in a change of meaning from "certain" or "sure" to "on top of" or "on", if the accent went.
 
Other changes include getting rid of a lot of hyphens, in words like week-end (which will become weekend) and porte-monnaie (wallet).
 
And French onions will never be the same again as the "i" drops from oignon to become ognon.
 
Nénuphar, which means waterlily, will bloom into nénufar
 
 
 
The changes do not mean the immediate end of the old spellings and traditionalists can continue to write oignon if they so wish, as has basically been the case since 1990.
 
While some may see the changes as being minor and argue that they are intended to make life easier, many in France have reacted with astonishment and a fair degree of anger.

In fact, #ReformeOrthographe (or "spelling reform") was the top trending Twitter topic in France on Thursday as the French public and even politicians took to social media to protest against the changes.

The user above stood resolute in support of the humble circumflex accent, and appeared to be pained by the idea of the French language being "dumbed down".

"I am the circumflex", he wrote, in an homage to the "Je Suis Charlie" slogan that swept the world after last January's terror attacks in Paris. 

Several politicians chimed in too, with National Front Vice President Florian Philippot saying "the French language is our soul" and the Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi calling the reform "absurd". 

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Both used the "Je Suis Circumflex" hashtag.
 
Others saw the changes as something like an insult to their own language. The user below didn't agree that spelling should be made easier for pupils.

"We had to learn to write properly, they can too," she writes. 

The man below writes that he "started the day with a bit of vomit in his mouth", referring to the reforms as a "paroxysm of dumbing down". 
 

But despite the overwhelming unimpressed nature of France's tweeters, others suggested  it was nothing more than a storm in a tea cup.

The user below shows "the world according to Twitter after the spelling reforms". 

While many might be outraged, learners of French may actually welcome the news, as accents and hyphens have long been a bane in their lives.

And perhaps the French language police shouldn't stop there. Below is a lit of ten ways the French could make their language a lot easier (for us).

Ten ways France could make learning French much easier

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