An official multinational body has decreed that the surname of Jesus Christ should be written without a capital as from August 2006. That is, if you are using the Dutch language. Though today Dutch-speakers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Surinam write "Christus", next year they will have to change their habits and write "christus".
The change is part of a new spelling norm, to be published in a new edition of the so-called "Green Booklet". Previous spelling reforms date from 1946 and 1996.
Another novelty is that the word for Jew will be written without a capital ("jood") when designating the member of a religion, and with a capital ("Jood") when designating the member of a people. Not all jews are Jews, but not all Jews are jews either.
Apart from "Christus", terms like "Renaissance" and "Middle Ages" will also lose their capitals. But other words will acquire capitals. An Aztec is now an 'azteek' in Dutch, but he will become an 'Azteek' next year, just as an 'eskimo' will become an 'Eskimo'.
Many people in the Netherlands and Belgium are fed up with this second modification to the spelling in less than 10 years. According to some the changes are only intended to increase the sale of school books (which will all have to be reprinted) and dictionaries in what is normally a limited market.
However, I fully welcome at least one change: electronic mail will be written as 'e-mail' again, instead of 'email'. That is good, because the Dutch word 'email' (as in French) also means 'enamel'.
The Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union) is the official multinational organism which establishes guidelines for the Dutch language as it is used in the Netherlands, Belgian Flanders and Surinam. The Dutch as it is spoken in Belgium is often called "Flemish", but it is as much Dutch as American English is English. Surinam became a member of The Nederlandse Taalunie only last year. One consequence of its membership is that the Dutch word for elbow, "elleboog", will now get a synonym: "handknie" (literally "handknee").