From NY Times: The vener­able Académie Française is in the throes of a rather signif­i­cant exer­cise. Guardian of the French language since 1635, the academy in recent times has gained a repu­ta­tion as being out of touch — and so, when it issued recom­men­da­tions in 1990 for the “recti­fi­ca­tion” of about 2,400 words, they did not stick. Week-end should become weekend, said the academy to anyone who would listen. Oignon (onion) would be better off as ognon. Paraître (to appear) had no need for its silent circum­flex. But no one was listening, and all of this was quickly forgotten.

Now, though, the academy’s reform has surged back to life. In November, the French govern­ment belat­edly decided to revive the 1990 proposals, prompting educa­tional publishers to announce new editions of their stan­dard works; from there, the story snow­balled into the biggest French language contro­versy since the advent of “freedom fries.” And though the academy’s tone-deaf spelling changes and hyphen cull have raised hackles, what has become most apparent is that the French really, really love the circum­flex. · Go to Hats off to the circum­flex →