Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gender Battles that Compute

A Spanish teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

"House" for instance, is feminine: "la casa."

"Pencil," however, is masculine: "el lapiz."

A student asked, "What gender is 'computer'?"

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether "computer" should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that "computer" should definitely be of the feminine gender ("la computadora") because:
1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory
for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ("el computador") because:
1. In order to do
anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and,

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

I'm sure you know who won!


A couple drove down a country road for several miles not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position.

As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats, and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?"
"Yep," the wife replied, "in-laws."


A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day...30,000 to a man's 15,000.
The wife replied, "The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men...
The husband then turned to his wife and asked, "what ?"


A man said to his wife one day, "I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time.., "The wife responded, "Allow me to explain, God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!"


A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight.

Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at
." He left it where he knew she would find it.

The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was
9:00 AM
and he had missed his flight....
Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper
by the bed. The paper said, "It is
5:00 AM, Wake up." Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests....


God may have created man before woman, but there is always a 'rough draft 'before the masterpiece.


José Solano said...

I'm sure just about everyone knows this but just in case let me clarify that the gender of a noun in Spanish has nothing to do with its function. With the exception of a very few anomalies it is just about always determined by its spelling.

Nevertheless, a very humorous post.

Ben Witherington said...

And the same can be said about other gender inflected languages such as Greek and Hebrew. English is just weird.


Ruud Vermeij said...

By the way, the difference in daily word count of men and women seems to be an urban legend, see:

Tim C said...

Surely English has grammatical gender as well as other ancient and modern languages. The difficulty lies in the fact that it is difficult to recognise gender by determiners and adjectives. All English nouns carry grammatical gender whether it be masculine, feminine, or neuter. The intersting thing about English is that it has nouns which can have two or more of these genders - e.g. teacher (could be masculine or feminine), or child (could be masculine, feminine or neuter).

Other languages such as Greek, French and German also indicate the gender of nouns with determiners and adjectives: e.g. in German one can speak of "ein großer Mann" (a tall man), "eine kluge Frau" (a clever woman), or "ein kleines Kind" (a small child). One must decline adjectives and determiners to agree with the case and number of the noun; however, in the case of "das Kind" (the child), one could, in spoken German at least, replace the neuter relative pronoun with a masculine or feminine equivalents (out of respect for the actual gender of the child).

Modern English just sweeps away the need for the complicated system of declining adjectives and determiners in this way.

Anonymous said...

I am apparently not quite yet academic enough as when I read your post, I enjoyed it, instead of [intellectually] picking it apart...