The French have always tried to find their own French-sounding names for every new hi-tech invention; ignoring accepted world-wide norms.
Being French, they are also obliged to decide what gender an object will be; for example, not so long ago it was decided that a computer (ordinateur) should be masculine.
Occasionally they seem to get it a tad wrong. Who, I wonder, amongst the learned members of the Académie française, made the decision that a gentleman's beard should be feminine (la barbe), and a ladies handbag should be masculine (le sac à main).
In the case of Email (electronic mail), the word was already in use; email meaning enamel in French, as in teeth (hence my toothpaste above) or decorated porcelain, so the word was simply shortened to mail.
Mail, as in letters inside envelopes, is designated as being 'male', and is generally called le courrier.
You're right - who decides?ReplyDelete
I have always seen the alphabet and numbers as male or female. Don't ask me why but A,C,K,S,V,W,X and Y are female (with Q always being a bit Bi) as are 3,4,6,and 9. I can only think that these were always depicted in 'girlie' colours when I was learning to read and count. x
Blimey Andi; I've never thought of that. I was prompted to write the above because someone recently mentioned that she'd been singing 'The sun has got his hat on', and wondered why the sun was a 'he'. My reply was that in French it's 'Le Soleil', and therefore male; but of course nothing to do with English.Delete
A very strange language.ReplyDelete
It's a minefield. I asked for a coffee at a French roadside cafe once, and wrongly assigned its gender as male. The owner repeated my order, correcting me by calling it female, then said - in English - "You speak very good French." It wouldn't have happened in Paris.ReplyDelete
I think the French always were a bit precious about their language, bless 'em.ReplyDelete
I'm learning Spanish, and sometimes the masculine/feminine thing makes me laugh; other times I just scratch my head. For example: a man's tie is feminine, a dress is masculine. Makes no sense!ReplyDelete
Maybe they exchange notes with the French!Delete
Ahh a common problem for folks that did not grow up speaking romance languages. I ran in to this issue during a very brief and failed attempt at teaching Spanish as a second language. It was a particular sticky point with the feminist (hear me roar I am woman) types. I had a couple of angry combat boot lesbians in my class. They seemed unable to grasp the fact that even though the noun is determined to be a given gender based on the ending vowel and the qualities attributed to it, the actual object the noun defines had no gender. So "Casa" (house) does not mean the house is a female, only that the word has feminine qualities allowing us to then determine that the appropriate preposition to be used is "La", and not "El". Equally, "Carro" (car) does not mean the car is actually a boy, it means the word has masculine qualities due to the O ending of the word and thus the appropriate preposition is "El".ReplyDelete
Let's not spoil things Mr S.Delete
Hence, as you pointed out to me the other day Cro, the sun is seen as masculine! When my friend finds an easy parking place she always remarks - God is so kind to us isn't she?ReplyDelete