Saturday, 6 February 2016

Taking the hat off.

So the French have decided to remove the circumflex, which my students used to refer to "that little hat", from some words, have they? And they have changed some spellings as well! We don't seem to do that sort of thing with English. From time to time we hear that some new words have been included in the Oxford English Dictionary but major spelling changes don't really happen. The Germans did it some years ago and it seems to have been all right. And the Spanish just formalise changes that have been happening willy-nilly. 

When I read about it yesterday, I wondered what the reaction of an old friend of ours would be. He studied French and Spanish at university with us and has frequently moaned about changes in both those languages. I don't think he ever quite got over the demise of the subjunctive in English usage, if we could ever truly be said to have used the subjunctive, apart from in expressions like "if I were you". 

But I am a little surprised (and amused) to hear about accusations that these changes, made apparently to simplify the words for schoolchildren, are an example of the Socialist government dumbing down the language. Obviously a left-wing plot! A student union group has criticised the education minister, Najat Vallaud- Belkacem, for "believing she was authorised to overturn the spelling rules of the French language". They should think themselves lucky to have spelling rules! And the wonderfully named Florian Philippot, vice-president of the far-right Front National, has declared "the French language is our soul". Maybe he is afraid that his surname will be changed to Filippot, giving him even more alliteration, visual as well as phonetic! 

Mind you, I must confess that the French for "onion", traditionally spelt "oignon", looks really odd and somehow wrong when you spell it the new way: "ognon". 

It's amazing how people leap to the defence of the traditional! Talking about the Sanremo music festival the other day, one of the ladies in the Italian class told us that the is something of a furore going on at present about Elton John. He has been invited to be a special judge or something at the festival and some people consider him unsuitable. Why? Well, for one thing he is openly gay. Not only is he gay but he is married to another gay man! Not only is he gay and married to another gay man but they have two adopted children! This goes against all ideals of the traditional family. And, of course, it would be far better for those two children, who seem perfectly happy with their two dads, to have remained in an orphanage! Much more traditional! Oh, come on!!!! 

Meanwhile, here it keeps on raining! I ran in the drizzle quite early this morning and later saw a hardier soul running in the truly pouring rain as I waited for the bus to take me to the supermarket. It was still raining when I came back. They forecast something like three inches of rain for today! 

I have consoled myself by reading odds and ends in the newspaper, bought when I jogged in the drizzle this morning. Having reached the Birthdays section, I learn that Rabbi Lionel Blue, whose dulcet tones and bad jokes used to amuse me when he did "Thought for the Day" on BBC Radio 4 as I drove to work, is 86 today. The actor with the unlikely name of Rip Torn is 85. Best of all is Zsa Zsa Gabor who has reached a magnificent 99! 

Hats off to all of them.

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