The other day I shared a link on the blog’s Facebook page to an article I found interesting. It discusses how your language changes how your think. It mentioned in the article that English leaves more room for ambiguity than some of the other widely-spoken languages in the world. I was thinking of this later and remembered the e-mail chain riddle that went around [numerous] times a few years back.
A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the doctor says ‘I can not do the surgery because this is my son’. How is this possible?
The answer being that the surgeon/doctor is a woman. I don’t bring this riddle up to shame you for not being pro-woman (although, really, come on already…jk, jk), but to point out that this riddle makes the point for gendered nouns. For example, any of you that speak or have studied Spanish, French, or Portuguese know that gender is specified for every noun.
- My [woman] neighbor is American: Ma voisine est américaine.
- My [man] neighbor is American: Mon voisin est américain.
If you speak clearly, no one has to ask if your neighbor is a man or a woman. Though it drives me crazy sometimes (and can cause oober confusion when I mess up), gendered nouns are actually quite a time-saver.
But now, I must point out that this riddle maybe wouldn’t work in Quebec either, but might in France, because according to the very academic “French for Dummies” site:
- “…According to the Académie française, which regulates the “purity” of the French language, some nouns that refer to people, such as un médecin (doctor) and une victime (victim), retain their gender regardless of who they are applied to. Although this is the official stance in France, other French-speaking countries such as Canada have both masculine and feminine forms for most of these nouns….”