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  1. ITV Report

French linguists in uproar over spelling changes

Do they know their onions? A simplified version of the traditional spelling of the French word for the vegetable will soon be introduced into the nation's school books. Credit: Reuters

French linguists have reacted in horror to official language changes that could spell the end for some of their favourite words and beloved accents.

The hyphen and the circumflex - the little hat that sits above the i and u in words like "s'entraîner" (to practice) or "coût" (cost) - have both been deleted as part of 2,400 officially sanctioned word changes in an attempt to simplify learning.

Commonly misspelled words like the French word for onion have also been adapted - from "oignon" to "ognon" - to aid learners.

New primary school textbooks from September will see the nation's schools bring the mass changes into force, 26 years after they were first proposed by the Academie Francaise, which guards the French language.

The new words are offered as alternative spellings and both variations will be accepted in class but some fear the changes signal the end for some of their native language's most distinctive features.

Twitter was awash with French speakers condemning the new words, with many adopting the hashtag #JeSuisCirconflexe to highlight what they saw as the biggest loss to the language.

The TF1 website, which first reported the changes, offered 10 examples among the 2,400 new spellings:

  • Oignon (onion) becomes ognon
  • Nénuphar (lily) becomes nénufar
  • S'entraîner (to practice) becomes s'entraine
  • Maîtresse (mistress) becomes maitresse
  • Coût (cost) becomes cout
  • Paraître (to appear) becomes paraitre
  • Week-end (weekend) becomes weekend
  • Mille-pattes (centipedes) become millepattes
  • Porte-monnaie (wallet or purse) becomes portemonnaie
  • Des après-midi (afternoons) becomes des après-midis