• France's news in English
French onions to lose the 'i' as spelling changes spark uproar
Photo: AFP

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

Oliver Gee · 4 Feb 2016, 10:20

Published: 04 Feb 2016 10:20 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
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". 
Story continues below…
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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Yellow smoke rises around French police officers in Paris holding a banner reading "Solidarity with our colleagues, police angry". All photos: AFP

Could these measures stop the cops from protesting?

'3,000 migrants dispersed' after 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time and thousands of others have simply been dispersed aid agencies say.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Photo: Matthew Powell/Flickr

A must read for anyone who wants to stay on the right side of the law in France.

Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available