What’s going on in France?
I’m talking about the way some people are reacting to the modest spelling reforms put forth by the Académie Française. According to a New York Times report, no sooner had the Académie proposed removing the circumflex from some words (only in cases where there would be no ambiguity), than Je suis circumflex became a thing on Twitter. It’s a nod, of course, to last year’s Je suis Charlie [Hebdo] meme.
You might think that I, a lover of language, would join the movement. But I won’t. Here’s why.
I grew up in an orderly home. There were rules. There were right ways and wrong ways to do things. As a result, life was pretty predictable. I liked that.
At school I learned the rules of grammar. I didn’t just learn them — I soaked them up. There was a right way and a wrong way to speak and write. I liked that.
Those rules became ingrained. Never split an infinitive. Never end a sentence with a preposition. Never use a plural pronoun (they) when talking about just one person.
Then a funny thing happened. As I grew older, I watched the English language evolve. I had a ringside seat, in fact, because I made my career in writing.