One Frenchman’s linguistic crusade to remove the ‘é’ from ‘Lubéron’ once and for all

Everyone knows how seriously the French take their own language. And now one man has embarked on a linguistic crusade to challenge the incorrect, but pervasive, use of the letter 'é' in 'Luberon'.

One Frenchman's linguistic crusade to remove the 'é' from 'Lubéron' once and for all
Lavender fields in the picturesque Luberon region. AFP.
Sébastian Trousse, an engineer living in Cheval-Blanc, a rural district in the provencal Vaucluse department in the picturesque Luberon region, is fed up with people using the accented letter, instead of just 'e', he says. 
The name should be written and said as 'Luberon', with a very subtle 'e' sound, rather than the hard sound of the 'é'.
While foreign tourists and Parisians alike are partly to blame, Trousse says the mistake goes even further, with spell checks on computers mistakenly correcting 'Luberon' automatically to 'Lubéron'.

The peaceful village of Loumarin in the Luberon part of Provence, southern France. AFP.
Born and raised in the strikingly beautiful area of vineyards, orchards, and “perched” hill-top villages, Trousse, aged 37, was at the end of his patience and decided to launch a petition to put a stop to the mistake, which has so far garnered around 500 signatures. 
“It might seem pointless but let's say it's close to my heart, like it is for lots of people in the Luberon,” Trousse told French newspaper 20 Minutes. “It's like your child having an exotic name and having to spend all day correcting people.”
“The first time, it makes you smile, the second time, it's a bit annoying, the third time, it gets on your nerves! It's like if we said, 'Parisse' (instead of 'Paris')!”
It was French classified website Le Bon Coin that eventually drove Trousse to create the petition. 
“People were writing 'Lubéron' and they told me it was to please potential buyers, Parisians or tourists,” he said.
But why is the error so prolific? 
“I wanted to find that out too. That's part of the reason I started going down this path. I didn't understand why 100 percent of residents in the area say 'Luberon' compared to 100 percent of tourists who say 'Lubéron',” said Trousse.
“The reason behind the confusion is that the first tourists heard locals saying “Lubéroun” in Provençal (a local dialect) so the pronunciation has stuck. But in Provençal, we write it without an accent, it's just in that in the traditional pronunciation we say 'é'.”
But Trousse is also challenging France's language authorities, including dictionary editors because it's normal for both variations to be included along with an explanation that the correct version is without the accent. 
“I'd like them to go further,” he said. “I'm going to present them with a dossier with historical research, with maps, so that they completely remove the accent.” 
British expats became particularly interested in the Luberon when Peter Mayle's book A Year in Provence hit the stands in 1989.
The best-selling book about Mayle's first year in Provence has been partially credited with the tourism boom in the area. 
For members


Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.