France is in uproar over reports that the official spellings of 2,400 words are being changed to make them less confusing for schoolchildren just learning the language, the Guardian reports. For example, "ognon" is now a fine way to spell onion in addition to the more familiar "oignon." And the circumflex—the hat-like accent—will be removed from some words where it doesn't affect meaning or pronunciation. But what advocates call a "clean-up" of the language, others accuse of being a "dumbing down" on the part of the government. "Absurd," say some. "The French language is our soul," say others. One French headline even went so far as to proclaim the changes "the death of the circumflex," according to NPR.
What's strange is that the new spellings have been the "official standard" since they were adopted by the High Council of the French Language back in 1990, only no one paid attention, the Local reports. The changes only started garnering responses like the hashtag #JeSuisCirconflexe after a TV news story this week. The president of the Higher Council of School Programmes says the story was a "political smear," trying to blame the current government for changes made decades ago. Regardless, schoolbooks will start using the new spellings in September (though schools will still accept the old spellings as correct). And as long as we're changing languages to make them easier for schoolchildren, we'd like to request the US government immediately recognize "wierd," "concious," and "embarass" as fine and good spellings. (Read more language stories.)