Bye-bye, Mademoiselle Irma!

Alas, she is no more: the quintessential symbol of le Grande Nation, the icon of all that was good and graceful and charming and slightly precocious about France. I’m talking, of course, about the „mademoiselle“.

According to a report in the International Herald Tribune, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has ordered the honorific to be banned from all official documents and registration systems. Married of not, les jeune filles are henceforth to be addressed as “madame”. In doing so, monsieur Fillon was reacting to a campaign by French feminists with names such as “Osez de feminism” (“Dare to be Feminist”) and “Les Chiennes de Garde” (“The Wachdogs”), who possibly look the part and who object to being typecast as rejects from the matrimonial mill or belittled as too young (and, presumably,  immature) to marry.

Given the ruthlessness with which French officialdom pursues linguistic improperties (using the word “computer” in a French advertisement instead of the officially sanctioned “ordinateur” can lead to stiff fines), I suppose we can expect to see a major effort soon to expunge the “m-word” not only from forms and questionaires, Internet shops and bank statements, but from literature as well. Maupassant’s „Mademoiselle Fifi“ will have to go, as will popular songs like “Mademoiselle Dany” (“… vous êtes bien jolie”). Jean Joubert will have to find an alternative title for his novel “Mademoiselle nuit”, and Channel will need a new brand name for its “Coco Mademoiselle” perfume line.

And I guess the state censors will be taking their scissors to the world of celluloid soon, too. I just can’t imagine Jack Lemmon addressing Shirley MacLain as “Madame” in “Irma la Douce”. Ne pas, s’il vous plait.

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