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.
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.
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.
Steve Bowler shares a “test” his eight-year-old girl was given in school in which she had to sort activities into those liked by boys, those liked by girls, and those liked by both. The girl drew in extra lines so she could squeeze most of the activities into the category “both”.
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.
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.)