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Toppling the Grammar Patriarchy

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 5:06 pm    Post subject: Toppling the Grammar Patriarchy Reply with quote

Toppling the Grammar Patriarchy
By Carmen McCoubrey
New York Times 11/16/17

"I still remember my sense of indignation when my high school French teacher told us about the rule: French nouns have a gender, even seemingly sexless ones like “table.” And if you had a mixed group of masculine and female nouns — say, a bunch of male students (étudiants) and female students (étudiantes) — you had to describe them, as a group, in the masculine.

“What if there are 99 female students and one male student?” I demanded.

It didn’t matter, the teacher said. What’s more, if you wrote a sentence about attractive (beaux) étudiants and attractive (belles) étudiantes, the adjective used to describe them had to be masculine, too: “Les étudiants et les étudiantes sont beaux.”

That was just the way French was, she said.

The sexism of that stung. And that was even before I discovered that one of the rationales for this rule in which one man trumped an infinite number of women was that “the masculine gender is deemed more noble than the feminine gender because of the superiority of man over woman.”

That line, from a 1767 grammar book, was cited last week in a declaration signed by 314 teachers in France that they would no longer teach the rule that “the masculine prevails over the feminine” when it came to plural nouns."

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Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15121
Location: Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!

PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doing Latin in the 1950s I was taught "The male embraces the female" as a way of expressing this. The meaning of course is that when talking of a group including male and female nouns, we will use male pronouns etc to refer to them.

As a Patriarch I have nothing against thus. It seems very sensible ! Excuse me while I reach for my flak jacket and tin hat for the inevitable figurative gunfire that will follow.
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