From the Guardian, Not the oignon: fury as France changes 2,000 spellings and ditches circumflex:
French linguistic purists have voiced online anger at the loss of one of their favourite accents – the pointy little circumflex hat (ˆ) that sits on top of certain vowels.
Changes to around 2,400 French words to simplify them for schoolchildren, such as allowing the word for onion to be spelled ognon as well as the traditional oignon, have brought accusations the country’s Socialist government is dumbing down the language. […]
The reforms provoked a #JeSuisCirconflexe campaign (derived from the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag) on Twitter. As the row spread across the internet and social networks, some wondered why the reforms, decided 26 years ago, had suddenly become such an issue.
In 2008, advice from the education ministry suggested the new spelling rules were “the reference” to be used, but it appears few people took notice. Last November, the changes were mentioned again in another ministry document about “texts following the spelling changes … approved by the Académie Française and published in the French Republic Official Journal on 6 December 1990”. Again, the news went unremarked.
It was only when a report by television channel TF1 appeared on Wednesday this week that the ognon went pear-shaped.
A furious student union group issued a statement lambasting education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem for “believing she was authorised to overturn the spelling rules of the French language”.
The far-right Front National waded in with party vice president Florian Philippot declaring “the French language is our soul” and the centre right mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi calling the reforms “absurd”.
The growing fury forced the education ministry in France to reassure the public on Friday that the circumflex accent was not disappearing, and that even though school textbooks would be standardised to contain the new spellings, pupils using either would be given full marks.
There’s a list of ten such changes, which seem eminently sensible (e.g., nénuphar becomes nénufar) but which, I confess, do offend my hard-earned eye for orthography (a product of the severe ministrations of Mme Ruegg), not that it’s going to drive me to adopt a hashtag. We certainly are sensitive about language, we humans. (Here‘s a more soberly written BBC News story. Thanks, Nick and Eric!)