Ready or not, the French language is changing. In fact, you’ll want to sit down before you read this, s’il vous plaît.
Spellings have been simplified, some hyphens have been removed and the circumflex has disappeared overnight from many words. For example, oignon, the French word for “onion,” will now be known as ognon. Porte-monnaie, or “purse,” is now portemonnaie. And s’entraîner, “to practice,” will now be known simply as s’entrainer, sans circunflex.
In 1990, the French Academy, the body responsible for governing the French language, recommended new spellings for 2,400 words, which included getting rid of the circumflex accent (^) on words with “i” and “u” as well as doing away with hyphens in many words. The French Academy purported that the changes would simplify the process of learning French. However, the changes were presented as optional, allowing most French people to simply ignore their existence. Until now.
Starting in September, French textbooks will sport the new spellings. For now, students will be allowed to use either spelling, but it’s clear that the old spellings are being phased out. Generations of French schoolchildren will soon be asking for an ognon and not an oignon.
As could be expected, a number of French social media users have expressed their outrage and used hashtags like #JeSuisCirconflexe. Amusingly, even some people who learned French as a second language are lamenting the death of the circunflex, like @KeithBlackhall who said: “I did not spend all that time remembering to add circumflexes to certain words only for them to be removed.” My condolences, Keith.
So what do you think about the new changes? Was it about time to make French spelling less complicated to learn? Or was this just an unnecessary move designed to give French speakers a mal de tête (headache)?