Gender in Language: A native speaker on gendered words in Italian

A while ago, Tom Scott, a qualified linguist who makes a living at explaining interesting things on YouTube, made a video about gender in language. It was partly about gender-neutral pronouns in English, and partly about gendered nouns in languages which have them (primarily European languages, where gender tends to match up with sex; in many other languages, genders are more like “animate” and “inanimate”, or “communal property” and “individual property”). He touched on how gendered nouns do actually have some effect on the way we think: Germans speakers and Italian speakers have different (and gender-influenced) perceptions of the connotations of keys, for example. It’s an interesting watch.

However, while Tom Scott has a qualification in linguistics, he does not actually work in that field. Furthermore, he is a native speaker only of English.

Another YouTuber, the Metatron, recently made a video on pretty much the same topic: feminine and masculine nouns in Romance Languages. The Metatron is Italian, and natively speaks Sicilian Italian. He also speaks French, English, and Japanese. He too has a qualification in linguistics, and actually works in the field, as a translator and a teacher. His YouTube videos are on too main topics: mediaeval warfare and linguistics.

Being doubly qualified, as a linguist and as a native speaker, does the Metatron have anything interesting to say on this subject? Of course he does. Yes, gender in the language does of course affect ones perception of objects, and even of abstract nouns. The personification of strength would, to the Metatron, naturally be female.

The Metatron’s video is not a direct response to Tom Scott’s, which was from some years ago. Tom rarely does linguistics videos these days.

Vi Hart, Spongebob, Fibonacci numbers, lack of bilateral symmetry in pineapples, and climbing snails

Yes.

Vi Hart announced that pineapples have Fibbonacci spirals, not bilateral symmetry, and therefore the pineapple house in Spongebob Squarepants is inaccurate.

And so the series designer, Kenny P., decided to redesign the set. Cool, huh?

Meanwhile, the snail which had appeared as a supporting character in Vi Hart’s Spongebob videos went on to a staring role:

And it only gets more epic from there:

(Even CGP Grey says it’s epic, in the comments.)

Meanwhile, back on the subject of Fibbonacci numbers (and Lucas numbers):

Simple rules: complex consequences. It’s wonderful.

TRiG.

The Princess Who Saved Herself: Book?

I’ve mentioned this awesome song by Jonathan Coulton before, when I linked to a video showing schoolkids’ drawings based on the song. And now there’s the wonderful possibility of an illustrated children’s book based on it. Yes!

One of the things I like about this song is that the princess is a hero while being feminine, or not, as she wishes. She never wore socks, but she did wear a silver dress. She did what she wanted to. The illustration for the proposed book shows her wearing a pink dress over torn jeans, which captures the spirit perfectly.

TRiG.

Elderly trans* people in Indonesia

I have no idea what it’s like to be a trans* person in Indonesia. According to this report from the BBC, many of them are prostitutes. This can happen when prejudice against trans* people is so harsh that it’s all but impossible for them to get any other job. But it’s not a job for life. And that is why Yulianus Rettoblaut (known as ‘Mami Yuli’) has set up a home which provides food, shelter and skills training for elderly transgender people.

TRiG.

Elemental Children

Small children singing Tom Lehrer’s song “The Elements“.

Well, that was the original idea, and then I got a bit carried away and added some older schoolkids doing it in class too. Anyway, enjoy! Interestingly, quite a few of the older ones sing along with a recording of Tom Lehrer, while the younger ones go it alone.

http://youtu.be/4pzJbFVz95s

And finally,

http://youtu.be/pGtWMrz0TMs

TRiG.

Oxford University Changes its Dress Code to make life easier for trans* students

Students sitting exams at Oxford University must wear formal dress: skirts and stockings or suits and bow ties. Formerly, female students were required to wear the skirts and stockings, and male students the suits and bow ties. But trans* students may still be registered with their previous gender, and would therefore be required to cross-dress back as their previous gender while sitting exams. This, understandably, added stress to an already stressful situation.

After a petition from the students’ LGBT Soc, the regulations have been changed to make no reference to gender.

The Guardian‘s reporting of this is positive, but does include some awkward and inaccurate phrasing around trans* issues:

If a transgender student wanted to wear subfusc of the opposite sex they had to seek special dispensation from university proctors, who had the power to punish those who breached the rules.

Presumably trans* students faced problems when they wanted to dress as their own sex, because in many cases they were still registered as being the opposite sex. (I’m not actually very fond of the phrase “opposite sex” either, given that there are more than two genders, but it’ll have to do.)

TRiG.