MEMBERS of the Academie Francaise, whose function is to safeguard the purity of the French language, have declared war on the education ministry for instructing officials to feminise staff titles.
In a blow for sexual equality, the ministry issued a circular which took effect this week requiring feminine, as well as masculine, terms for professions, posts, grades and titles.
Under the education ministry's circular, directors become directrices as well as directeurs; inspectors are inspectrices or inspecteurs; traditionally masculine words such as chef, professeur and recteur become optionally feminine.
But the prospect of such usage has outraged the so-called Immortels - members of the academy - who are threatening a constitutional crisis.
In a condemnatory article in Le Figaro, one of their number, Maurice Druon, said the common language was "gnawed at its base, rotted at its foot by all those whom one forgives or excuses, or overlooks their ignorance or contempt of the very simplest rules. At its head it is martyred by those bogus experts who take a pleasure in its vivisection."
Mme Royal has been in trouble with the Immortels before. In January, they protested when, with other women ministers, she adopted the designation Madame la Ministre.