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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Seeking a Common Language Part 4

Learning French is complicated. There are many subtelties to the language, including context, formality, and of course the humour factor. And that all makes sense. But the whole feminine/masculine thing, which I accepted while learning grammar in school has become very confusing to me.

Let's start from the top. La nez, un oeil, le peau, la bouche - I do not see the logic. How does a body part become feminine or masculine?  Seems to have nothing to do with the gender of the person, the purpose, or anything at all really. But I will tell you what tops these visible body parts.

Breasts are masculine.
Male genitalia are feminine.
Female genitalia are masculine.

Yep, men say "she" when they talk about their penises. Isn't that bizarre? What could possibly be feminine about a penis?

Think about it. When someone was making up the rules for the language, they said,

"Let's be very logical and refer to objects by the gender that seems obvious".

And then the next person (likely an elected politician) said

"Wouldn't it be more fun to be totally random? Kids in school will be looking for the pattern, the rule that applies to help them determine the gender of the noun, and the teacher will explain that this is one more case where the exception is the rule".

Can you think of another explanation?

You might aso enjoy my previous attempts at mastering the language:

Seeking a common language part 1
Seeking a common language part 2
Seeking a common language part 3

4 comments:

  1. The expats dilemma. I had NO IDEA... my French books don't include swear words or genitalia.

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    1. Yes I think we have missed some important grammar lessons!

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  2. Sure sounds like you discovered some very important information this weekend. Who ever said learning a foreign language can't be fun.

    Now I'm trying to imagine (in English) how a man can observe a masculine object and describe it as "she"., e.g., A Naval officer looking at his new battleship and saying, "Isn't she beautiful?" So he admires its masculine architecture, power, and functionality which translates as a beautiful thing. Beauty usually is synonymous with female. Could this the same train of thought? I'm choosing my words very carefully here folks.

    However, I can't find and analogy of a woman describing her body parts as "he." Maybe I just don't want to. Architecture, power, and functionality should fit here too, but don't translate as "he" in conversation. I need a woman's perspective here.

    I agree with your thought that this was likely created by an elected politician. Who else could confuse such a simple thing!

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    1. Thank you Richard for the chuckle. Yes the topic requires a certain approach... but you may have given some insight into at least one aspect.

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