The Dictionary Is Apparently “Woke” Now, Guys

· Updated on March 23, 2023

Everyone, we finally did it: we’ve awaken (awoke? Awoken?) the un-woke minds of the folks at… the dictionary company.

At least, that’s what a lot of people believe has happened at the company that publishes the Le Petit Robert French dictionaries, all because they now officially include a definition for the words “iel, ielle, iels, ielles,” the equivalents of a gender-neutral pronoun. Iel is a portmanteau of il and elle, which represent “he” and “her” in French.

Why? How could a dictionary decide to recognize such words? Well, according to the dictionary’s editor, it’s because… it’s a word. That people use. So they decided to put it in the dictionary.

“We looked at statistics showing that many people were looking up the word ‘iel,’ so we thought it made sense to give them an answer,” editorial director Marie-Hélène Drivaud said to TETU.

This, of course, has led to “controversy” over whether this is the “latest example of pushback in some French quarters against cultural theories on race and gender that have been embraced by younger generations in particular,” as The Guardian reports, or… simply the definition of a new-ish word.

Now, as evidence that the faux outrage political machine isn’t limited to America, French lawmakers have jumped in on the “issue,” calling such a word an example of American-style “wokeism,” which is a largely nonsensical way of saying something that is slightly out of the norm they have grown accustomed to must be entirely removed.

“This type of initiative sullies our language, and ends up dividing its users instead of bringing them together,” claimed François Jolivet, a French politician who wants the language council of the country, the Académie Française, to rescind the word’s approval.

He also wrote that the Petit Robert’s approval of new language is tantamount to “a manifest ideological intrusion” by the dictionary’s publishers and they have become “therefore the militants of a cause that has nothing French about it: the #woke,” as he tweeted.

Language has always been very important in France, but with the French governance coming out strongly against the word, their crusade against the word’s existence is surely going to make it well known. I mean, people who don’t speak French are now talking about it, so this is already clearly backfiring.

Of course, the outrage is largely driven by a refusal to accept anything that doesn’t enforce the gender binary, but it’s also a typical conservative ploy for leaders to signal that they will protect their intolerant, probably transphobic base.

Another lawmaker said it clear as day in a tweet: “Inclusive writing is not the future of the French language,” wrote education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. “Our students, who are consolidating their basic knowledge, cannot have that as a reference.”

Petit Robert dictionary director Charles Bimbenet issued a statement clearing up the dictionary’s position regarding their “wokeist” crusade.

“The Robert has not had a sudden serious case of ‘wokeism’ – a word that we promise to define soon,” he said. “It seemed useful to specify [iel’s] meaning for people who come across it, whether they want to use it or, on the contrary, reject it.

“Defining the words at use in the world helps us to better understand it.”

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