Who knew three simple letters could kick up such a fuss?
The Portuguese government on Friday voted to add 3 new letters to the alphabet -- k,w and y. The measure will also phase out hyphens, eliminate silent consonants and standardize the use of accents. Thus, from here on in, it's spelled "otimo" (and not "optimo") to say "great" in your next flirty chat session with a Portuguese beauty. Capite?
Why the sudden changes? Because the Portuguese language is under siege by globalization, Google searches and the ascendancy of its former colony, Brazil. Thus, the humble Portuguese decided last week to adopt Brazilian Portuguese as the official state language, to be phased in over the next six years. Defenders of the original Portuguese collected a rather underwhelming 33,000 signatures protesting the move.
Never mind that Brazilian Portuguese is spoken by at least 190 million of the world's 230 million Portuguese speakers. For linguists, this is an historic moment: one of the original Romance languages is ceding its position as an "official" language to its upstart former colony. Could other languages be next? British English maybe?