French dictionary adds gender-neutral ‘iel’ as personal pronoun, sparking backlash

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, also waded in to tweet: “Inclusive writing is not the future of the French language”.

“Just as our schoolchildren are consolidating their basic skills, they don’t need to have this as a reference,” he added.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, head of sovereignist party Debout La France, fumed against the “woke pronoun” on Twitter.

“Let’s defend our language against these ridiculous fanatics of deconstruction and let’s boycott the collaborators who give into them,” he wrote.

However, Le Petit Robert said it was merely moving with the linguistic times. Other new inclusions were “passe sanitaire” (health pass) and “anti-vax”.

“New words respond to a need,” Marie-Hélène Drivaud, editorial director of the Le Robert dictionary. 

“That’s the case for the word ‘iel’. The French language is a gendered language and you have to choose your camp, ‘il’ or ‘elle’. Some people don’t want to make this choice and came up with this solution, whether good or not, it’s not for us to judge. We are simply there to acknowledge a usage.”

An Ifop poll out in France last year found that 22 per cent of 18 to 30 year-olds didn’t want to be recognised as “girl or boy”.

Lee Ferrero, of transgender association Transat in Marseille, called the inclusion “historic” and added: “Language is the source of the existence of things so imagine a situation where one’s identity is not expressible, a situation when one can’t communicate in a simple way and be understood when one speaks of oneself. This will move things on.”

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