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.
A monoglot Irish speaker, Myles Joyce, who had no English, was defended in court in Dublin by a solicitor and barristers who spoke no Irish. The evidence he gave as Gaeilge was ignored in court. Evidence which might have helped his defence was withheld and the trial also heard from informers gave false evidence against him.
The judge and jury who convicted him had no Irish and the jury deliberated for less than six minutes to decide on his guilt before sentence of death was passed.
An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said Mr Joyce’s case was one of most significant and distressing cases ever concerning the denial of language rights.
Convention becomes tradition, and acquires weight. This guide to the workings of comic-book speech bubbles showcases how this can work. One thing not mentioned is the flowery borders used by the Astérix books when someone is being “nice”. There are other conventions, which may arise within the a specific work. In Khaos Komix, for example, each story has a narrator who is looking back on the story and recounting it in the past tense. The narrator’s words are shown in white on a black background, while their actual dialogue within the narrative is shown in normal speech bubbles.
We’re all familiar with the ubiquitous OK and Cancel buttons on modal windows. Any computer program will at some point ask us whether to go ahead with a certain action, and the standard buttons are OK and Cancel. But that was not always the case. The original designers thought OK was “too colloquial”, but user testing changed their minds.
When you send e-mails full of misspellings and errant apostrophes, people judge you. And by people, I mean me.
It’s better than fashionable: it’s useful.
Wildly original and excessively heterodox language could land you in the soup.
You slip into a suit for an interview, and you dress your language up too. You can wear what you like linguistically or sartorially when you’re at home or with friends, but most people accept the need to smarten up under some circumstances. It’s only considerate. … There’s no right language or wrong language any more than there are right or wrong clothes. Context, convention, and circumstance are all.