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AP takes French leave of its senses

The AP style book, seen as the bible for US journalists looking to improve their writing, made a bit of a faux pas when its latest literary advice hit Twitter. 

“We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing ‘the’ labels, such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college educated,” the Tweet counselled, adding, “Instead, use wording such as people with mental illnesses.”

It was, as Le Monde noted with sang-froid: “une mauvaise idée”.

A blizzard of bon mots hit the Twittersphere. “There is nothing as dehumanising as being considered one of the French,” quipped author Sarah Haider, while a political scientist suggested “people experiencing Frenchness” was the best alternative for les français.

But the pièce de resistance came from the French diplomats who tweeted out a photo of the newly renamed Embassy of Frenchness in the United States.

“We just wondered what the alternative to the French would be,” Pascal Confavreux, the embassy spokesman, told The New York Times in a cri de coeur.

 In a seeming volte face, AP issued another more apologetic message:

We deleted an earlier tweet because of an inappropriate reference to French people. We did not intend to offend, ”it began. And then the coup de grâce: “Writing French people, French citizens, etc, is good. But ‘the’ terms for any people can sound dehumanising and imply a monolith rather than diverse individuals.”

Plus ça changeplus c’est la même chose, as they say in France.

Image courtesy of Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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