From the Washington Post Style Invitation, in which it was postulated that
English should have male and female nouns, and readers were asked to assign a
gender to nouns of their choice and explain their reason. Some of the
submissions: SWISS ARMY KNIFE- male, because even though it appears useful
for a wide variety of work, it spends most of its time just opening bottles.
KIDNEYS- female, because they always go to the bathroom in pairs. TIRE- male,
because it goes bald and often is over-inflated. HOT AIR BALLOON: male,
because to get it to go anywhere you have to light a fire under it ... and,
of course, there's the hot air part. SPONGES- female, because they are soft
and squeezable and retain water. WEB PAGE- female, because it is always
getting hit on. SHOE- male, because it is usually unpolished, with its tongue
hanging out. PHOTOCOPIER- female, because once turned off, it takes a while
to warm up. Because it is an effective reproductive device when the right
buttons are pushed. Because it can wreak havoc when the wrong buttons are
pushed. ZIPLOC BAGS- male, because they hold everything in, but you can
always see right through them. SUBWAY- male, because it uses the same old
lines to pick people up. HOURGLASS- female, because over time, the weight
shifts to the bottom. HAMMER- male, because it hasn't evolved much over the
last 5,000 years, but it's handy to have around. REMOTE CONTROL-
female...Ha!...you thought I'd say male. But consider, it gives man pleasure,
he'd be lost without it, and while he doesn't always know the right buttons
to push, he keeps trying.
Heaven forfend that this should ever happen. One of the great strengths of English is its lack of gender. This is one of the reasons why it is a relatively easy language to learn and also why it can absorb other langauges' words so easily.
Just think, the Germans have theoretically 16 words for the definite article - we manage with just one. And how does it help in communication or understanding? Not at all. Why must it be Das Auto (the car - neutral) but Der Wagen (the car - masculine). And when a new word is taken into the language, the Germans have to decide which of the three genders to allocate to it.
Gender - leave it where it belongs - to men and women!
Asa, those are funny!
Richard, you have introduced me to a new word: "forfend". Either I am just ignorant to its use or it is one of those U.K./U.S. differences. By the way, is there a word for cultural differences in the use of words?
As far as German, I find that language fascinating because they seem to have a word for everything. Remember Wordcrafter's German theme? That was my favorite of all the themes. Now, I say this having never studied the language so there may be more than meets the eye with the beauties of German. I studied Spanish and hated that it was so simple and straightforward. I wish I would have studied German or French.
Interestingly the Collins Dictionary lists the word forfend meaning to prohibit or prevent as being obsolete in UK usage. I wouldn't go that far but I would say it's at the very least old fashioned, maybe even archaic.
The same dictionary lists it as having a US meaning of to protect or secure.
Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum
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Archaic, maybe; picturesque, I think so. Why not use some attractive terms occasionally?
We have far more words in English than there are in German. The one, oft-quoted word, that they do have for which there is no English translation is "schadenfreude".
However, that is now used so frequently in English when we wish to convey the idea of deriving pleasure from another's pain or discomfort that it will soon, I suspect, be just another of the many foreign words we have adopted for our own use.
In a couple of generations (and maybe after it has undergone a few spelling and pronunciation changes) I suspect that many will not even remember its German origins
I agree completely! In fact, I love that word "picturesque". I wish I knew more of those terms. That would be a good theme for Wordcrafter: "picturesque terms".
How about my very favorite word from Wordcrafter's German thread, "torschlusspanik"--there is no word for that. Remember when we were looking for a word for talking to oneself, and I went to a German word forum and found: "Selbstgespräche führen" ("to lead self-converstions")? Now, granted, it is 2 words, and I don't much like the "fuhren" part; still it is a phrase that we don't have.
In fact, this is only a shorter phrase than its English equivalent because of the German habit of combining words. "Selbstgespräche" means "self-conversation and the verb is needed for it to make sense. That goes at the end since that's where German like to put their verbs (that's why German oratory is so full of suspense - the listeners are waiting for the verb!)
Similarly we have no word for Der "Danaudampskibgesellschaftcommandanten" (apologies in advance for any spelling error) - but then what's the point of having one word for "Danube Steamship Company Captain".
Excluding such "combined word" eccentricities I stick by my assertion - English has more words than German.
Okay, since I know very little about the German language, I will have to give you that. Still, German does intrigue me a bit!
"English has more words than German." Indeed.
And I suspect that, in the decade since this research was undertaken, the word count has increased significantly.
I have heard estimates as high as five million, although I suspect that this is probably strteching things somewhat.
Thanks, wordnerd. I really was wrong by a mile!
Under the heading of Latalsat Tasimi Wrawl (see elsewhere) I'd like to give this thread a second look.
It started out with a great premise but after that one great opening post it went totally off track into areas which, interesting as they were, had nothing to do with Asa's original thread idea. If I may, I would like to challenge my fellow Wordcrafters to submit their own ideas as to what genders may be assigned to common everyday items and why.
Allow me to kick it off with:
DOGS are female. They're loving and trusting but can't be taught how to parallel park.
SLOT MACHINES are male. Yank our handles and we light right up. (!!!)
A MUG OF BEER is female. She may have a good head on her but guys are only interested in what's below.
BALLPOINT PENS are young males. Always losing their caps.
SHOWERS are male. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold, always all wet. (Odd how often these things turn out to be insulting!)
FIRE is female. If he's not careful, a guy can get burnt. (Actually, come to think of it, FIRE is transexual.)
And lastly, one I heard a long time ago but which fits this thread, PIANOS are female. When they're not upright, they're grand.
So gang, whaddaya say? By the powers invested in me by the State of Illinois and my own collosL ego, I appoint Asa as Prime Minister of this thread. Take it away, Asa!
Nope. Dogs are male.
How do you figure dogs are male?
The original scientific definition of dog was "male canine". The AHD gives this as one of their definitions: "A male animal of the family Canidae, especially of the fox or a domesticated breed."
"Names of Males, Females, Babies, and Groups of Animals"
at enchantedlearning.com is a chart listing different types of animals and their male, female, young, and group terms. The animal listed "dog" I believe should be listed "canine". Note that a male "dog" (canine) is a dog, while a female "dog" is a bitch. Bitch was, and still is, a perfectly good word among breeders, hunters, and dog fanciers. The perjorative use of that word has caused us to refer to a bitch (in the canine sense) as a dog. Once again PC scrubs a perfectly good word because it is "offensive". A "female dog" makes no more sense than "female bull" or "male cow". Oh, well...
What a great site, Tinman.
And, as a Wisconsinite, a heifer is a young cow that has not given birth to a calf, while a steer is a young male ox (bovine); an ox is an adult castrated bull (taurine). Not bad for a Chicagoan, right? (Of course, Tinman will probably find me wrong about something.)
English has more words than German." Indeed.
I believe that German has only 672 words. The rest are merely combinations or reductions of those basic 672. That's why one may write a complete paragraph in German without any punctuation. It's R-DNA, or "Recombinant Deutches Normal Sprech." (Please pardon the spelling errors, as I don't understand a lick of German)
Your Prime Minister
CJ's Topic: what genders may be assigned to common everyday items and why.
Computers are MALE: to get them to do anything you have to turn them on first.
Computers are FEMALE: always requiring the latest new accessories.
Computers are female, indeed. Push the wrong buttons and they freeze up and refuse to perform.
Also, while feigning indifference, they do perform beter if you have a really big hard drive, and give them lots of RAM.
And I figured you guys would come up with the fact that you need the harddrive to run the software!
Hmm? Now let me get this right. The heifer is a Wisconsinite? Are all heifers young cows, or just those from Wisconsin?
You threw me for a loop with this one, Kalleh. If a steer is a young male ox and an ox is an adult castrated bull, then a steer must be a young adult male castrated bull. That doesn’t sound quite right.
Your definitions sound pretty much right, but your use of taurine and bovine threw me. Since bovine refers to members of the genus Bos, I figured taurine referred to another genus. Was I wrong! Upon looking it up I found that taurine just means “pertaining to bulls” (literally or figuratively). So a taurine animal is, by definition, a bovine, but not all bovines are taurine.
Did you use those two words purposely to confuse me? You succeeded!
For those who care (not many, I assume), here is the taxonomic breakdown of the genus Bos (I hope it's correct).
Domain - Eukaryota
Kingdom – Animalia (Metazoa)
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family – Bovidae
Genus - Bos
Species - B. frontalis
B. grunniens – wild ox of Tibet, often domesticated; yak
B. taurus - domesticated bovine animals – cattle, cows, kine, oxen
Kine is an archaic plural of cow (mature female bovine) according to the AHD, while WordNet (Princeton)says it refers to “domesticated bovine animals as a group regardless of sex or age”. Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary says kine in Genesis 41: 18 refers to “buffalo”.These are the major taxa (taxonomic categories). There are often sub-categories. For example, Bos belongs to the subphylum Vertebrata, subclass Placentalia and the subfamily Bovidae. There is probably a suborder, too, but I don’t know what it is.As you may have surmised, part of my schooling involved taxonomy (systematics). I had a rudimentary introduction to the taxonomy of plants, not of animals. At that time, domain was not a taxon (singular of taxa), at least to my knowledge. There were two kingdoms: plant and animal (Plantae and Animalia). Now there are generally considered to be five kingdoms, though some taxonomists propose seven. I learned the following mnemonic: “King David came over for golf sticks”, where the initial letters stood for kingdom, division, class, order, family, genus, species. For some reason unknown to me, division is changed to phylum in the animal kingdom. No problem. Just change David to Phillip. I prefer the mnemonic, “King David came over for good sex”. At some time it was decided that a new taxon, domain needed to be added. Just change the statement to a question: “Did King David come over for good sex?”
[This message was edited by tinman on Thu Feb 27th, 2003 at 21:13.]
Actually it's "Donaudampfschiffsgesellschaftskapitän", and your point is well taken, but this word is actually never really used in German except in examples of long words. Some take it further and say "Donaudampfschiffsgesellschaftskapitänskajüte" for "Danube Steamship Company Captain's Cabin". But then why did English make steam and ship into steamship? It's only a matter of degrees.
For the rest of you, this is that person from the German language site I posted (in Links for Linguaphiles) who always answers my questions about the wonderful German language.
Tinman, somehow I missed that last post of yours. I only meant that being from Wisconsin means that I know a bit more about farm animals than many of the urbanites on this site. However, after your post, I realize that I don't know that much more, and, in fact, my definitions came from a dictionary. You're right that the "steer" definition doesn't quite sound right. I will see what I can find. And, finally, no I wasn't trying to confuse you, but you definitely confused me!
[This message was edited by Kalleh on Sun May 4th, 2003 at 8:10.]
Hey, Kalleh, isn't "taurine" something one serves soup in, and not the contents of the soup?
I suggest that this is not quite the same. Steam and ship are two quite different words and steamship is more than just a combination of them. The vessel is more than just steam and more than just a ship.
Whereas to combine Donau and dampfschiff doesn't change the meaning that the words have separately. Donaudampfschiff means the same as Donau dampfschiff.
I'm with robb on this (welcome aboard by the way) - it is just a matter of degree and singling out one example in either language doesn't change that.
English has plenty of examples of joined words where the meanings don't substantiall change - bedpost springs to mind. Additionally "steamship" does combine the meanings of "steam" and "ship" - the verb meaning of "steam" with the noun meaning of "ship".
And going the other way German has plenty of examples where combining the words does produce a new meaning, albeit one related to the original sense
krank = sick
Wagen = car
Krankenwagen = ambulance
Non curo ! Si metrum no habet, non est poema.
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bedpost springs to mind
What do bedsprings do to your mind?
That would be a tureen, Asa.
That would be a tureen, Asa.
Oh, don't be silly; that's a town in Northern Italy that's famous for its beef stew!
I didn't mean to imply that German didn't have such constructions, simply that the Danube Steamship Company wasn't one of them. Combined of separate the words have the same meaning.
A steam ship company, though, is not necessarily the same as a steamship company. (although I agree that a "steam company" might be an unusual beast!
English compounds often come into being after they have been separate words for a while, but due to frequent use eventually warrant becoming their own word. For example steamship may have been steam ship, then steam-ship before becoming steamship. Although with a fairly recent, sudden invention like this it might have skipped being a steam ship. I know I've seen steam-ship in literature.
My point is English has an option of compounding words or not, and it's not always logical. German always compunds or hyphenates them or makes a phrase so that the two words don't occur together. Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän would more often be Kapitän der Donaudampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft.
Some writers will actually break words up into separate words, but it's (still) officially bad grammar. Anyway it's clear that even German speakers have problems with their sometimes long words.
After posting that last post I realized we were leaving out the "-fahrts-" part of that long German word up till now, and according to the new German spelling rules they added a third "f" in the middle, so the word is really Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän. Our word keeps getting longer :-(
One of the f's between "Schiff" and "Fahrt" used to be dropped. Now they keep all three.
The "-fahrts-" part is important so you know the company is concerned with driving/running (what's the right word?) the ships and not doing something else with them like building or selling them.
o you know the company is concerned with
driving/running (what's the right word?)
How about piloting?
I understood what you were trying to say, Kalleh, but you didn’t say it. Heifer is the subject in your first sentence. Therefore, “Wisconsinite” must refer to the heifer. What your sentence says is that a heifer is a young cow from Wisconsin … . That prompted my questions: “The heifer is a Wisconsinite? Are all heifers young cows, or just those from Wisconsin?” I probably wouldn’t have said anything, but your last sentence practically dared me to. Just having a little fun at your expense.
Steer probably has slightly different definitions in different areas. Your definition is probably accurate for your area.