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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

How 2,400 French words are getting a spelling makeover

Here are a few of the 2,400 spelling changes that France is rolling out.

How 2,400 French words are getting a spelling makeover
Photo: AFP
In a bid to simplify the French language, the ministry of education has reminded schools to implement a series of spelling changes dating back to 1990, that appear to have gone under the radar until now.
 
There are 2,400 spelling changes in total, that were recommended by the Académie Française – the guardians of the French language 26 years ago.
 
Here are a few to keep in mind, although if you are a traditionalist you can still use the old spelling if you so wish.
 
Perhaps the headline change, the one that has really got people's eyes watering is the Oignon, the French word for onion will lose it's “i” and become ognon.
 
Photo: Thad Zajdowicz/Flickr
 
Nénuphar the traditional word in French for “waterlily” becomes nénufar
 
Perhaps the most controversial change or the one that has got most traditionalists' blood boiling is the dropping of the circumflex accent (^) on certain words. 
 
Disparaître (to disappear) will become disparaitre and in the same way paraître, meaning to appear will become paraitre. 
 
S'entraîner (to practice) will become s'entrainer.
 
Maîtresse (mistress, teacher) will become maitresse in future.
 
Coût,the French word for cost will become cout.
 
And then there are the hypens that will drop.
 
Pique-nique, or pic-nic becomes piquenique or picnic.
 
Week-end becomes weekend and Mille-pattes (centipedes) becomes millepattes
 
Photo: tontantravel/Flickr
 
Porte-monnaie the French word for purse or wallet will become portemonnaie. Extra-terrestres (extra terrestrial) becomes extraterrestres.
 
There will also be changes to the plural form for words with hyphens.
 
Des après-midi (afternoons) becomes des après-midis
 
some words will also see the acute or aigu accent, which points to the right and upward change direction to become a grave accent.
 
So événement will be évènement and réglementaire will become règlementaire.
 
There's also an effort to Frenchify certain words borrowed from the English language.
 
Also “words borrowed from another language will form plural in the same manner as French words French and are accented according to the rules that apply to French words.”
 
So des matches, des misses and revolver will become des matches, des miss and révolver.
 
And the changes also recommend using Frenchier versions of new words so leader will become leaduer to fit with the pronunciation.
 
 
 
French onions to lose the 'i' as spelling changes spark uproar
 
 

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POLITICS

French elections: What is ‘parrainage’ and how does it affect candidates?

If you follow French politics, it's about this time that you will start to see a lot of mentions of parrainage - here's what that means and how it affects the race for the presidency.

French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?

The French word parrainage means sponsorship or guardianship and it comes from parrain – godfather.

Just as in English, parrain can be used in its literal sense for a child’s godfather (godmother is marraine) or a more general sense for anyone who is a powerful figure – the classic mafia movie The Godfather is Le Parrain in France.

But in the context of presidential elections it has a more specific meaning, which is to do with how you get onto the ballot paper.

In order to be a candidate in a French election you have to be a French citizen aged 18 years or over. 

But you also need to collect at least 500 signatures (or parrainages) from elected officials to back your campaign.

These can be from anyone elected to public office from village mayors to MPs, MEPs and Senator but there are some rules – the officials must come from at least 30 different French départements or overseas French territories and no more than 50 signatures can come from one département or overseas territory.

This year, candidates have until March 4th to gain the signatures they need, if you’re on French social media you may recently have spotted lots of obscure politicians tweeting pictures of either a signed form or a letter being popped into the postbox – they’re making a public declaration of their parrainage.

You don’t need to be on Twitter though, the names of all the officials who have given their signatures will be published on March 8th, along with the list of candidates who have gained the required 500 and therefore their place on the ballot paper. 

Until that date, the question of who has the required numbers of parrainages is the subject of a lot of speculation and newspaper headlines, as well as charts like the one below, which are generally based on public declarations of support.

You can follow all the latest news and explanations of the 2022 presidential election campaign HERE.

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