+ 33 (0)6 25 31 08 81 Uri Sluckin Tradwell uri@tradwell.com

logohd-650x200-horNot the oignon, s’il vous plaît: fury as France changes 2 400 spellings and drops some accents.

French linguistic purists have voiced online anger at the removal from many words of one of their favourite accents – the pointy little circumflex hat (ˆ) that sits on top of certain vowels. Around 2 400 words can be spelt differently, although it’s not mandatory. Traditionalists, including Tradwell will stick to the original spelling.

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The idea is to make it easier to learn seemingly difficult words. Tradwell has always persisted in spelling weekend without the hyphen in its French travails.

The circumflex will be removed from above the letters I and U where the accent does not change the pronunciation or meaning of the word.

The far-right Front National waded in with party vice president Florian Philippot declaring “the French language is our soul” and the centre right mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi calling the reforms “absurd”. Tradwell is voicing its doubt as to Christian’s ability to write correctly what he says, circumflex or not. Florian’s protests hardly concern those familiar with writing.

No such debate over the Channel, but what about English words spelled one way and pronounced the other?

How about Wednesday spelled and becoming Wensday when spoken?

It’s all down to Woden, an Anglo-Saxon god associated with both fury and poetic inspiration. He also had a career in curing horses and carrying off the dead, and Wednesday is his day. Shakespeare tried to match pronunciation with his very reasonable « Wensday, » it didn’t work. Woden got to keep his ‘d’ and his day.

Receipt: when the word came into English from French it had no ‘p’, and no one pronounced it as if it did. The ‘p’ was added to match the Latin receptus.

This is also how debt and doubt got their ‘b’s, salmon and solder got their ‘l’s, and indict got its ‘c.’

Colonel, pronounced Kernel: this word came into English in the 1500s with two spelling variants and two pronunciations. Coronel came through French and colonel through Italian.

One rhymes with gun, but not with lone,which seems to be related in meaning.

Silent letters are another bone of contention with English language learners.

There’s the silent k of know, knight, and knot.

There’s the silent g of gnarly, gnome, and gnu.

From French, we have borrowed bourgeois (boo jwah) and debris (duh bree).

Words with Silent Letters:

gnat, gnaw, know, knee, knife, knit, knickers, knuckle psychology, psychiatrist, pneumonia should, could, would isle, aisle, island wrap, wrinkle, write, wrath, wrist, wrought debt, doubt listen, soften, castle, often hour, heir, herb Wednesday, handkerchief, lamb, limb, dumb, thumb, climb, tomb, comb

All of these words are pronounced as if the block letters were not there, but when you write the words, you must include those letters.

Or try this:

LEAD – to conduct, show the way, take first position is pronounced with a long E and rhymes with need or seed

LEAD – noun – a soft, very heavy metal is pronounced with a short E and rhymes with bed or said

How about place names that confuse 99% of French TV and radio pundits to the point to confusing Tradwell as to where did the football clubs that met over the weekend actually play?

Here are a few good ones:

Althorp (where Princess Diana is buried) The village is pronounced Olthorpe but the House is pronounced Orltrop (notice the reversal of the O and the R!)

Beaconsfield, a lovely place west of The Smoke – Bekonsfield as in bee

Beaulieu home to the National Motor Museum in the New Forest – Bewley

Bicester – Bister

Boughton, Lincolnshire – Bootun

Brough, East Yorkshire – Bruff

Chiswick, London – Chizzik

Cholmondeston, Cheshire – Chumston

Cholmondley – Chumly

Edinburgh – Edinboro or Edinburah (NEVER Edinburg)

Eltham, SE London – El-tum

Fowey (Cornwall) Foy

Frome – Froom

Gillingham, Kent – Jillingham, but Gillingham, Norfolk & Dorset – Gillingham (hard sounding “g” as in girl)

Glasgow – Glazga

Gloucester – Gloste

Greenwich – Grenich

Grosvenor – Grovenor

Harrogate – Harrowget

Hastings, Sussex – Haystings

Holborn, Central London – Hoe-burn

Keswick, Cumbria, England – Kezik

Launceston (UK) – Lawnston

Leicester – Lester

Leominster – Lemster

Lewes, East Sussex – Loowis

Milton Keynes – Milton Keens

Norwich – NORRich

Penistone – Penny -stun

Plymouth – Plimuth

Ruislip – Ryeslip

Salisbury, England – Sawlsbry

Scone, Perth, Scotland – Skoon

Slough – Slow (to rhyme with how/now)

Southwark – Suthuk

Truro, Cornwall – Tru-row

Warwick – Warrick

Worcester – Wooster (as in Bertie Wooster)

Next time you enjoy your Bloody Mary think of Worcestershire (Woostershir) sauce, it’s what makes it tangy.

Do not pronounce the “g” in Tangy!!!