This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Changing problems: a rant

Ah, the dear Académie Française! Always so passionate. 

Its members (they call themselves Les immortels, or The Immortals, which seems a strange sort of thing to do to me: but then I'm English) have the responsibility of guarding the purity of the French language (to speakers of the proudly mongrel English language also a strange idea) and the poor things are under constant attack from...well, the rest of the world, basically. Anyone who speaks anything other than perfect French.

But now, what horror! the French language is under attack by its own government. 

The civil service of President Macron is adopting gender-neutral forms. Now, these are certainly inclusive and respectful, but they are a) not standard French and b) the ones that have been chosen are very difficult to write on a computer.

The essential problem with French as it stands at the moment is that if you have a bunch of French people of both sexes (the official French language only recognises two sexes) then linguistically they're all treated as male. You might be describing a crowd of ninety nine women and one man, but you're supposed to call them your amis, which is the word for male friends (female friends are amies). In France, my family is anglais, even though three quarters of us are actually female and therefore anglaises.

So, in the name of equality (if not liberty and fraternity) a new way of describing mixed groups has been invented, the écriture 
inclusive, for use by the civil service and academia. 

What you have to do is put a dots in to show you're writing about both sexes. A group of mixed friends becomes ami·e·s, for instance.

(You see what that mid-point dot has done to the formatting of this post? Tut!)

I'm sure the person behind this idea is perfectly well-meaning, but, look, I don't have a floating dot on my keyboard. French keyboards don't usually have this facility, either. 

And, after all, if you must, why not write it ami.e.s?

The immortels - sorry, there are a few women among them, the immortel·le·s - are in despair, and talk of mortal danger to the language.

Well, it's their job to make a fuss about this sort of thing, so I suppose you can't blame them. 

And, honestly, why on earth didn't the revolutionaries come up with some system you can type?

Word To Use Today: chairman? Postman? Actress? Or else some alternative your conscience deems appropriate.

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