répondre / repondre

The other part of my French course story I forgot about yesterday:

I really didn’t like my French teacher at school. I thought she was a mean person, a bully. She always was at her meanest returning failed tests.

And one thing she tried to impress on us was that répondre (to answer) needs an accent aigu ´. She claimed that otherwise it would mean laying eggs. I looked up the word repondre in the dictionary and couldn’t find it, so I concluded she made it up. It kind of fit in with my opinion of her.

This week we talked about accents in French course. They are in the news right now, because changes that were made in the 1990s are finally put into practise by school book publishers. Some accents circonflexes ^ can be left out, if they don’t serve to differentiate the meaning of the word. Sûr = sure, sur = on top of, for example. Or if they change pronounciation like in même or tête. Mayhem and anarchy are the consequences of this change, as you can imagine.

I remembered the répondre/repondre story and asked my teacher if it’s true that repondre means to lay eggs. It turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that: pondre means to lay eggs. Repondre means to lay eggs again. So my mean French teacher who enjoyed humiliating bad students was actually right, in a way. huh.

I find the whole hand wringing with regards to accents or no accents pretty funny. When you learn French there are so many words that are spelled differently but pronounced the same, having an accent circonflexe or aigu or not is the least of my concerns.

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