By Harvey Finkel
THE FRENCH, ever vigilant to declare draconic decrees to preserve the purity of their language, may be about to out-outrage all recorded outrages. As reported in the philology column of The Economist of February 27, French spelling is to be simplified in time for the coming fall term. Included in the reforms will be suppression of that intricate l’accent circonflexe. A sacrilege: sacré bleu!
The ferment was fomented by Les Immortels of the French Academy, who, twenty years ago, decided to guillotine the unnecessary, the silent. Slower than l’escargot, the government has just now adopted the reforms, thereby arousing linguistic conservatives and, especially, vignerons. “What are we to do without the ‘â’ in château?” moaned a courtier in Bordeaux, scowling in that characteristic Gallic manner when a négociant from Beaune suggested replacement with an unaccented ‘i’. The Domaine des Épouvantails’s American importer is test-marketing “cotte ordure” as the new name of the fabled Burgundian slope. The papal nuncio in Châteauneuf-du-Pape denied that a papal encyclical was being papally prepared.
A vintner of Cahors complained, “Les Anglais are mistaking our grapes for little beds!” And what of Côte-Rôtie?