By THOMAS ADAMSON, The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — It's a neutral pronoun that's proving anything but: A nonbinary pronoun added to an esteemed French dictionary has ignited a fierce linguistic squabble in the country.

Le Petit Robert introduced the word "iel" — an amalgamation of "il" (he) and "elle" (she) -- to its online edition last month. The term is still far from being widely used, or even understood, by most French-speakers.

Graphic Credit: "Le Robert"
Graphic Credit: "Le Robert"

Though at first the change went mostly unnoticed, boisterous debate broke out this week in a country that prides itself on its human rights tradition, and protects its cultural heritage from foreign influence.

Traditionalists criticize the move as a sign that France is lurching towards an American- style "woke" ideology. Others approve it.

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