French dictionary adds non-binary pronouns, sparks anger
French dictionary Le Robert decided to add the entry “iel” – a combination of “il” and “elle”, which means “he” and “she” in French – to the online version of the word. dictionary in October.
It is “third person singular and plural subject pronoun, used to refer to a person regardless of gender,” the dictionary entry says.
Along with the plural and feminine form, collectively known as “iel, ielle, iels, ielles”, this new addition to French caused strong opposition from some French politicians.
“Its authors are therefore warriors of a cause that has nothing to do with France: #wokisme,” Jolivet said.
His anger resonated among other French lawmakers, including Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.
“So even though our students are solidifying their background knowledge, they can’t take this as a reference.”
CNN has reached out to the French Academy, the governing body for the French language, for comment.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal reiterated the government’s position “not to use the spelling included in all official and administrative documents,” at his weekly press conference on Wednesday.
Le Robert responded with a statement on Wednesday saying it was simply trying to reflect recent changes in the French language it has noticed.
It acknowledges that general use of “iel” is still low, and that dictionary entries mark that word as “rare”. But the editors thought it would be helpful to include the entry and make its meaning clear to people so they could decide if they wanted to use it or reject it.
“Le Robert’s mission is to observe the development of a French language in movement, diversity and report on it,” the statement said.
It also said in the statement that most of the reactions it received were positive.
The outrage comes as France grows increasingly uncomfortable with cultural influences from other countries.
This was put to the test when the French’s love of secularism – known as “laïcité” in French – was questioned by many in the United States.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in October 2020 these observations were made with “social science theories purely imported from the United States,” incompatible with French history.