|[a] That would be madame RF|
|[b] Mademoiselle Antoinette RF|
It misses the larger point, though. The "fact" is that I am much more interested in language and culture than in politics. Moreover, I am very interested in the administrative forces that pontificate about language and culture.
France is quite particular about language...and culture. Here in the United States (and most of the rest of the world) language ebbs, flows, and sputters. "Hopefully" is entering the mainstream (and has been for decades); split infinitives are beginning to powerfully take-off (just a little grammar joke there). On the other hand, "groovy" just won't stick, no matter how hard Ron Paul's ad-makers try ("dude" is holding steady, though). "Miss" is pretty much gone these days, except as a tender verb and an old abbreviation for an American gulf state.
|[c] Lex-icon(ic) PD|
Funny how language works that way.
Yes, Virginia, even in France. Terms sputter, gasp, and fade. Others muscle into the speech patterns of everyday people looking for hard drives, software, or even (mon dieu!) hamburgers. The difference between France and China or the United States is that some people in France take these matters très sérieusement. Well, some people in the United States and China (and Germany and Poland and the Lesser Antilles—sovereign and non-sovereign territories alike) take these things pretty darned seriously, don't they?...I hear you cry. They write grammar books and hand out style guides in class, for Pierre's sake. Right? Right?
|[d] Mademoiselle de Fitz-James RF|
That would be correct.
The difference is that William Strunk, William Safire and Kate Turabian are not members of a governmental organization that "decides" these matters. They and other lovers of languages other than French are not members of anything like the Académie Française. They may aspire to deathless prose, but they are not immortels. Although the Académie cannot create policy, it shapes both language and lexicon in ways that most other countries (and speakers of various languages) find baffling.
So that's it? The Académie crushed the word mademoiselle? Nope. Gouvernement did. If you have thought about language (and culture) at all, you must know by now that it is not possible for even a glorious institution of learning to change the way people talk (and pass le pizza, please). If that worked, college professors would read exquisitely crafted papers every day during their working lives. I am not sure whether to greet this idea with the word "chimera," "utopia," or "delusion." As David Foster Wallace once wrote in a learned and hilarious review of a grammar book, the problem with grammar books (I paraphrase) is that only the people who already care...buy grammar books.
Oh, but you can create a language do-over another way. While you can't make people stop, you can give them nowhere to turn (a phrase) on official documents. Non, monsieur...you cannot check the little box that says "mademoiselle" on your family documentation. There is no longer a box to check marked "mademoiselle"; your daughter will no longer (on official papers at least) be called "ma" (my) "demoiselle" (little lady). And, non, madame. It is just vous and your cherubic little enfant(s). The patriarchal and possessive form—with a questionable connotation of Neolithic kinship structure—has been taken off the page. Literally.
It is, quite
Read a little bit about it on Twitter and in a few major newspapers. In a few weeks, I will look at language do-overs in a different way—considering names that, once outdated, have made comebacks (or are trying to). Is anyone betting on a resurgence for Millard...or Beulah? For now, though, consider language, change, and administrative do-overs with honorifics en Français.