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New Olympique de Marseille jersey shipped with grammatical mistake

A look at the back of Olympique Marseille's new black-and-orange alternate jersey.

Anyone struggling with the French language's arcane grammatical rules will relate to this.

One of France's most storied soccer clubs, Olympique de Marseille, unveiled a black-and-orange alternate jersey this week.

The club promoted it as the world's first reversible soccer shirt, with a fabric that changes hue as it is stretched and a concept that carries an anti-racism message.

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But now it's making headlines because of a grammatical mistake.

The back of the shirts have verses by local rapper Akhenaton, including the line "nos cœurs sont oranges, comme au couchant sont les flots" (our hearts are orange, like the sea at dusk).

In the country of the Académie française and the Bernard Pivot televised dictation contests, many take their grammar seriously.

So even though the verses are stitched in tiny letters, it wasn't long before people noticed that there was one "s" too many.

Usually French adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify. However, there are many exceptions, and one of them is that colour adjectives are invariable if they come from names of flowers, gems, fruits and other such objects.

In other words, it should have said "nos coeurs sont orange."

A spokeswoman for the kit maker, Adidas, told the newspaper Le Figaro that it was the manufacturer's mistake.

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Thousands of the shirts, which retail for 90 euros each, have already been shipped and team players will have to wear the grammatically-challenged gear when they take to the field for their last regular season game, away against Sochaux, May 20.

Marseille players traditionally wear white and blue colours.

The black-and-orange reversible concept alludes to a 1989 incident when Marseille played Paris Saint-Germain and supporters from the cosmopolitan southern city faced racists chants from skinheads in the Parisian team's kop.

Both groups of supporters wore black bomber jackets but, in protest, the Marseille fans turned their black bomber jackets inside out and showed the orange linings, to stand out against the skinheads.

Editor's note: A previous version of this web story incorrectly detailed the rules of French adjective agreement regarding colours.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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