Gender Trouble (sin Ms. Butler)

note: if you are familiar with the romance languages/not interested in rants you may wish to just skim this and listen to the Sedaris clip at the end. 

If I were to invent a language I would probably make something kind of like English.  Verbs would be their own entities, changing to express time but having nothing to do with the subject. Objects would be free from gender, not having the parts that too often dictate these things anyway, therefore adjectives would also be free from conforming. However I would not use bizarre English spelling, it would be very “fonetic.”

Thinking about this makes me wonder why oh why would you choose to implement these things. Now I know Spanish and French are from Latin, but certainly the Romans could’ve thought of a better system of communicating. I just can’t imagine thinking, “oh instead of just talking about ‘eating’ why don’t we make it so you have to change the ending a bunch of times depending on who’s eating or if they’re still eating or….” It’s condensed, but is it really better? (for those not in the know, “to eat” is “comer,” I eat= como, You eat= comes, we eat= comemos….)

I mean I do find it interesting, and I guess I shouldn’t be so irritable about not being able to speak in the past tense yet because at least when I do learn it, there’s a system. Compare just changing endings with the unexplainable: “well you swim now, and later you will have swum; then you eat now, and later you will have eaten—because you ate…” Really, I think learning Japanese was probably easier than if I had to learn English. Thinking about it now, Japanese has a nice balance between root verbs you change the ending of for time, commands, ect. but do not have the subject built into them. Still, what really gets me irritable and boggled (and is thankfully lacking in Japanese) is gendered nouns.

Did they ask if all cars are masculine? Why are hands feminine when half the time they are attached to men? And it’s not always so easy as what you are told in lower school: that words ending in o are masculine and words ending in a are feminine, what about the masculine el problema? or feminine la mano? Then there’s all the other possible endings—clase, direccion, cuidad—it’s chaos! Maybe I am getting worked up, one has to memorize vocabulary anyway you say, but should I have to worry about my adjectives “agreeing” with my noun? See, you cannot say you have a “black” (feminine form= negra) “car” (always masculine=carro), you have to say you have a “black” (masculine form=negro) “car”. Trials and tribulations. Plus gendering everything makes the feminists irritable that the “base” form is masculine. Like if you are talking about two Chinese girls they will be called “chinas,” but if you are talking about a Chinese girl and a boy they will be called “chinos,” the masculine form of the nationality, because you had to pick one.

Languages have always kind of in intrigued me, but looking at what linguistics kids do is a lot of trees and that doesn’t seem like so much fun. All this got me thinking about Esperanto, which does have verb ending nonsense, but does not have gendered nouns, and does have some other unique abilities—like being able to turn adjectives into verbs. This allows for poetic things like, “the sky is bluing.” Too bad it hasn’t really caught on.

Still, for now I’m stuck debating (in a very Sederis in France fashion) whether to address my chairs as Mr. or Ms.

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About syd

I like beats & beets
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