One of the staunchest defenders of the French language has found a new enemy in his never-ending battle against linguistic pollution - American feminists.
Maurice Druon, secretary of the hallowed Academie Francaise that guards the language as a national treasure, grumbled on Wednesday about a recent fashion for "feminizing" titles which he said was an American aberration infiltrating French via Quebec.Writing in the conservative daily Le Figaro, he said that "angloricain" - his apparently admissible neologism for the "Anglo-American language" - had sullied French with words such as "prime-time" or "look."
"Now, using its Quebec staging post, it ends up perverting our grammar," he fumed.
"Do we know where this fashion of feminizing titles was born? Certainly not in Canada, but in the United States. Canada was only contaminated through geographical proximity."
Droun and the Academie have been leading a rearguard attack against the trend toward feminine titles that has gained support from the left-wing government elected last year.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ruled in March that women cabinet members should be known by the feminine "Madame la Ministre" instead of "Madame le Ministre" as the rules of French grammar require.
The government, which has eight women cabinet members mostly in their late 30s or early 40s, also now uses "directrice" instead of "directeur" (director) and "conseillere" instead of "conseiller" (adviser) when women hold those jobs.
Droun said English could easily replace "chairman" with "chairperson" because its grammar had a neuter gender, which French does not. Some French nouns have masculine and feminine forms while others do not and should not, he insisted.
He lamented that French-speaking Belgians had also fallen prey to "Americanomania," condemning as laughable the feminine term "sapeuses-pompieres" (firewomen).