French dictionary Le Robert decided to add the entry “iel” – a combination of “il” and “elle,” which means “he” and “she” in French respectively – into the online version of its dictionary in October.
It’s a “personal subject pronoun of the third person singular and plural, used to refer to a person regardless of gender,” the dictionary entry reads.
Together with its plural and feminine form, called collectively as “iel, ielle, iels, ielles,” this new addition to the French language has triggered strong opposition from some French politicians.
“The Petit Robert, a dictionary that we thought was a reference, has just integrated on its site the words “iel, ielle, iels, ielles,” said French lawmaker François Jolivet, from French President Emmanuel Macron’s party La République en Marche, in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Its authors are therefore militants of a cause that has nothing to do with France: #wokisme,” Jolivet said.
His anger resonated among other French lawmakers, including the Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.
“Inclusive writing is not the future of the French language,” Blanquer said in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Hence, even though our students are consolidating their fundamental knowledge, they cannot have this as a reference.”
CNN has reached out to the French Academy, the governing body of the French language, for comment.
French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal reiterated the government’s position “not to use inclusive writing in all official documents and administrative documents,” at his weekly press conference on Wednesday.
Le Robert responded with a statement on Wednesday saying that it is simply trying to reflect recent changes in the French language that it has noticed.
It admitted that the general use of “iel” is still low, and the dictionary entry flags that the word is “rare.” But the editorial committee thought it would be useful to include the entry and clarify its meanings for people so that they can decide if they want to use it or reject it.
“Le Robert’s mission is to observe the evolution of a French language in movement, diverse, and to report on it,” the statement said.
It also said in the statement that most of the reactions it received are positive.
The outrage came as France is growing increasingly uncomfortable with cultural influence from other nations.
This was put to the test when the French love for secularism – known as “laïcité” in French – was questioned by many in the United States.
These observations were made with “social science theories entirely imported from the United States,” which are not compatible with the history of France, French President Emmanuel Macron said in October 2020.