Among the words appropriated from English, news reports noted, the hyphen in week-end would be eliminated, along with the hyphen in tictac (now tic-tac, or ticking, like a clock), while leader would be given a French makeover and be spelled leadeur. Nénuphar, or water lily, would be spelled nénufar.
The reaction on social media was harsh and swift, as intellectuals, teachers and traditionalists took to Twitter to vent their anger at what many saw as an attack on centuries of culture and history.
In a sign of the frenzy inspired by the changes, “Je suis circumflex” became a popular hashtag on Twitter — an allusion to “Je suis Charlie,” the rallying cry used to show solidarity after the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists early last year.
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Others were quick to warn of the linguistic perils of losing the circumflex to distinguish between sûr, or sure, an adjective, and, sur, or on, a preposition.
“I am sure your sister is well” and “I am on top of your sister she is well” are not the same thing,” wrote another Twitter user, using a colloquial form of French.
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In 1635, Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of Louis XIII, established the Académie Française to rule on the usage of the French language.
The 1990 changes that caused all the fuss this week also came up in 2008, when the Education Ministry published a bulletin urging schools to put them in place.
Nicolas Sarkozy was president at the time of that bulletin, which was largely ignored. Another bulletin issued by the ministry to schools in 2015 — this time during the presidency of François Hollande, a Socialist, received a similarly muted reaction.
This latest debate appears to have been reignited when education officials again this year reiterated their plea. Only this time, publishers of textbooks decided to embrace them.
Patrick Vannier, who works in the elite dictionary service of the Académie Française, said by phone from Paris that the backlash appeared to be overwrought. But he said he was heartened that in the age of the iPhone, the French remained so wedded to their dictionaries.