Gender-specific nouns

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Eugene Kononov

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:17:34 AM11/10/03
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In many languages (including my native language), all nouns are gender
specific (normally male, female, or neutral). English is different, of
course, but it seems that English speaking people long for that
explicit relation in their language. I was taking a ride with my
colleagues (all Americans) the other day, and we observed a butterfly
near by. When it disappered, one of my colleagues said, "Oh, he is
gone". When I asked the colleague about why he decided to use a "he"
(not a "she") in reference to a butterfly, he couldn't explain. I then
recalled from a book that there is a vague usage pattern in English
that when you try to personalize an object, you should use *your*
gender.

Here is my question: is there, in fact, a formal (or informal)
grammatical rule or structure in English that prescribes the use of
the *speaker* gender when the speaker refers to some non-human things
whose gender is either unknown or not even applicable?

Thanks,
Eugene.

david56

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:33:29 AM11/10/03
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nonli...@yahoo.com spake thus:

Not that I'm aware of. Some inanimate objects are feminine (ships,
cars), but that's about as far as it goes. A butterfly is either
male or female - if you can tell the difference then you use the
appropriate pronoun, otherwise I would personally use "it".

Some animals are easy of course (cows, mallard ducks, blackbirds), so
these tend to have the right pronoun.

--
David
=====

Paul Rooney

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:41:17 AM11/10/03
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On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 13:33:29 -0000, david56
<bass.c...@ntlworld.com> wrote:


>Not that I'm aware of. Some inanimate objects are feminine (ships,
>cars),

I wouldn't go that far, David. Some people do refer to them as though
they were feminine, but most of us don't!

--
Paul
My Lake District walking site (updated 29th September 2003):
http://paulrooney.netfirms.com

Please sponsor me for the London Marathon at:
http://www.justgiving.com/london2004

Donna Richoux

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:42:53 AM11/10/03
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Eugene Kononov <nonli...@yahoo.com> wrote:

No. Sorry. Not at all.
--
Best wishes -- Donna Richoux

david56

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:46:11 AM11/10/03
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paulr...@aol.com spake thus:

> On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 13:33:29 -0000, david56
> <bass.c...@ntlworld.com> wrote:
>
>
> >Not that I'm aware of. Some inanimate objects are feminine (ships,
> >cars),
>
> I wouldn't go that far, David. Some people do refer to them as though
> they were feminine, but most of us don't!

True. Some inanimate objects are referred to as "she" by some people
(that is, the feminine pronoun doesn't sound odd as it would with
most inanimate objects.

--
David
=====

CyberCypher

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:52:02 AM11/10/03
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Paul Rooney <paulr...@aol.com> wrote on 10 Nov 2003:

> On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 13:33:29 -0000, david56
> <bass.c...@ntlworld.com> wrote:
>
>
>>Not that I'm aware of. Some inanimate objects are feminine (ships,
>>cars),
>
> I wouldn't go that far, David. Some people do refer to them as though
> they were feminine, but most of us don't!

How do you know that "most of us don't"? You may not, but most of the
people I know do. I don't know you, so you don't count.

Ever read _she being Brand-new_?

MEow

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Nov 10, 2003, 9:00:55 AM11/10/03
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While frolicking around in alt.usage.english, david56 said:

>Not that I'm aware of. Some inanimate objects are feminine (ships,
>cars), but that's about as far as it goes. A butterfly is either
>male or female - if you can tell the difference then you use the
>appropriate pronoun, otherwise I would personally use "it".
>
>Some animals are easy of course (cows, mallard ducks, blackbirds), so
>these tend to have the right pronoun.

I always refer to cats in feminine, unless I know that the cat I'm
talking about is male. They strike me as being feminine, by default.
Don't ask me why, because I don't know.

The Danish language has 2 genders: Non-gender and double-gender. Same
thing with Swedish and Norwegian.
--
Nikitta a.a. #1759 Apatriot(No, not apricot)#18
ICQ# 251532856
Unreferenced footnotes: http://www.nut.house.cx/cgi-bin/nemwiki.pl?ISFN
"When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gnu?"
Carl LHS Williams (Sheddie)

John Dean

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Nov 10, 2003, 9:16:46 AM11/10/03
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MEow wrote:
> While frolicking around in alt.usage.english, david56 said:
>
>> Not that I'm aware of. Some inanimate objects are feminine (ships,
>> cars), but that's about as far as it goes. A butterfly is either
>> male or female - if you can tell the difference then you use the
>> appropriate pronoun, otherwise I would personally use "it".
>>
>> Some animals are easy of course (cows, mallard ducks, blackbirds), so
>> these tend to have the right pronoun.
>
> I always refer to cats in feminine, unless I know that the cat I'm
> talking about is male. They strike me as being feminine, by default.
> Don't ask me why, because I don't know.

For some reason, the UK advertising industry tends to refer to cats as
feminine and dogs as masculine 'She'll enjoy Sheba ... He'll love Pal'
As pointed out earlier, ships tend to be referred to as feminine. So do
vintage cars. Australians have a phrase 'She'll be right'. Lancastrians have
a phrase 'Who's 'she'? The cat's mother?'
--
John Dean
Oxford
De-frag to reply


david56

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Nov 10, 2003, 9:56:39 AM11/10/03
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john...@frag.lineone.net spake thus:

That reaches a lot further south than Lancashire - it was perfectly
common in my Midlands childhood. But it's a different issue - the
retort is pointing out that it's rude to refer to somebody who is
present by a third person pronoun.

Child, to father: "*She* says I can't go out to play".
Mother (interrupting): "Who's 'She'? The cat's mother?"

--
David
=====

Matti Lamprhey

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Nov 10, 2003, 9:57:39 AM11/10/03
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"John Dean" <john...@frag.lineone.net> wrote...

>
> For some reason, the UK advertising industry tends to refer to cats as
> feminine and dogs as masculine 'She'll enjoy Sheba ... He'll love Pal'
> As pointed out earlier, ships tend to be referred to as feminine. So
> do vintage cars. Australians have a phrase 'She'll be right'.
> Lancastrians have a phrase 'Who's 'she'? The cat's mother?'

I don't see that your final example is linked to the phenomenon at all.
Nor have I ever come across a satisfactory explanation for the "cat's
mother" thing -- have you?

Matti


dcw

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Nov 10, 2003, 10:09:21 AM11/10/03
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In article <MPG.1a19b7872...@news.cis.dfn.de>,
david56 <bass.c...@ntlworld.com> wrote:

>That reaches a lot further south than Lancashire - it was perfectly
>common in my Midlands childhood.

My grandmother (cockney) used to say it.

> But it's a different issue - the
>retort is pointing out that it's rude to refer to somebody who is
>present by a third person pronoun.

Yes, but for some reason it only appled to "she", not "he".

David

J. W. Love

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Nov 10, 2003, 10:39:04 AM11/10/03
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Eugene asked:

>Is there, in fact, a formal (or informal) grammatical rule or


>structure in English that prescribes the use of the *speaker*
>gender when the speaker refers to some non-human things
>whose gender is either unknown or not even applicable?

If there is, somebody'd better tell Steve Irwin, TV's nature-loving,
crocodile-hunting mate from Oz, because, for him, reptiles are feminine ("Isn't
she beautiful!").

John Dean

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Nov 10, 2003, 12:37:12 PM11/10/03
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Matti Lamprhey wrote:
> "John Dean" <john...@frag.lineone.net> wrote...
>>
>> For some reason, the UK advertising industry tends to refer to cats
>> as feminine and dogs as masculine 'She'll enjoy Sheba ... He'll love
>> Pal' As pointed out earlier, ships tend to be referred to as
>> feminine. So do vintage cars. Australians have a phrase 'She'll be
>> right'. Lancastrians have a phrase 'Who's 'she'? The cat's mother?'
>
> I don't see that your final example is linked to the phenomenon at
> all.

I'm sorry. Are there rules?


> Nor have I ever come across a satisfactory explanation for the
> "cat's mother" thing -- have you?

Simply a way of pointing out that it is rude to refer to people you should
respect as 'she'. So Granny asks grandchild to be quiet, kid remains noisy,
Mother intervenes, kid says 'I don't have to do what *she* tells me', Mother
and / or Grandmother say 'Who's 'she'? The cats mother?'.
ie, referring to your Granny you should call her by title. But you can refer
to the cat as 'she'.
Rule suspended in the Houses of Parliament.

Lars Eighner

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Nov 10, 2003, 3:09:27 PM11/10/03
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In our last episode,
<d4a4fd16.03111...@posting.google.com>,
the lovely and talented Eugene Kononov
broadcast on alt.usage.english:

> Here is my question: is there, in fact, a formal (or informal)
> grammatical rule or structure in English that prescribes the use of
> the *speaker* gender when the speaker refers to some non-human things
> whose gender is either unknown or not even applicable?

In traditional English, "he" is used for a person or animal when the
actual sex is unknown or unspecified. This usage is now controversial.

A few objects, ships for example, are referred to as "she" by people
who have more than an occasional need to refer to such objects, but
"it" is always correct for objects.

--
Lars Eighner -finger for geek code- eig...@io.com http://www.io.com/~eighner/
I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander. --Isaac Asimov

Evan Kirshenbaum

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Nov 10, 2003, 4:58:04 PM11/10/03
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Lars Eighner <eig...@io.com> writes:

> In our last episode,
> <d4a4fd16.03111...@posting.google.com>,
> the lovely and talented Eugene Kononov
> broadcast on alt.usage.english:
>
> > Here is my question: is there, in fact, a formal (or informal)
> > grammatical rule or structure in English that prescribes the use
> > of the *speaker* gender when the speaker refers to some non-human
> > things whose gender is either unknown or not even applicable?
>
> In traditional English, "he" is used for a person or animal when the
> actual sex is unknown or unspecified.

Except for some animals, notably cats. I once had a friend refer to
her family's cat as "she", when said animal was, at the time, on its
back and manifestly not female. I think that spiders are "she" by
default for many people as well.

--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
HP Laboratories |Those who study history are doomed
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 |to watch others repeat it.
Palo Alto, CA 94304

kirsh...@hpl.hp.com
(650)857-7572

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/


Jerry Friedman

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Nov 10, 2003, 5:35:24 PM11/10/03
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nonli...@yahoo.com (Eugene Kononov) wrote in message news:<d4a4fd16.03111...@posting.google.com>...

Nope.

I've never noticed any pattern in the pronouns people use for animals,
except that in my experience "it" and "he" are more common than "she"
(except for cats). On a few occasions, I've heard people calling a
bird "he" and informed them that it was female. They sometimes
continued calling it "he".

--
Jerry Friedman

Robert Bannister

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:28:26 PM11/10/03
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John Dean wrote:
> Matti Lamprhey wrote:
>
>>"John Dean" <john...@frag.lineone.net> wrote...
>>
>>>For some reason, the UK advertising industry tends to refer to cats
>>>as feminine and dogs as masculine 'She'll enjoy Sheba ... He'll love
>>>Pal' As pointed out earlier, ships tend to be referred to as
>>>feminine. So do vintage cars. Australians have a phrase 'She'll be
>>>right'. Lancastrians have a phrase 'Who's 'she'? The cat's mother?'
>>
>>I don't see that your final example is linked to the phenomenon at
>>all.
>
>
> I'm sorry. Are there rules?
>
>
>
>>Nor have I ever come across a satisfactory explanation for the
>>"cat's mother" thing -- have you?
>
>
> Simply a way of pointing out that it is rude to refer to people you should
> respect as 'she'.

It goes a bit farther than that: it applies to the entire female sex,
whom, of course, we respect (or else).

--
Rob Bannister

John Dean

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Nov 10, 2003, 8:56:46 PM11/10/03
to

Not in my Mother's tribe. There were several women in the neighbourhood 'no
better than they should be' that I could refer to as 'she' without fear.

The Grammer Genious

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Nov 10, 2003, 11:43:55 PM11/10/03
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I think some people (invariably males, in my experience) use she/her for
objects that they admire, cherish, or have an affection for. A rifle,
for instance. "Ain't she a beauty?"

\\P. Schultz

Ramandu

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Nov 11, 2003, 12:29:24 AM11/11/03
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Jerry Friedman said...

>I've never noticed any pattern in the pronouns people use for animals,
>except that in my experience "it" and "he" are more common than "she"
>(except for cats).

And poodles. People always called my poodle "she" before they knew he was male,
and some still did afterwards.

--R--

Reinhold (Rey) Aman

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Nov 11, 2003, 1:30:58 AM11/11/03
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The Grammer Genious (= funny \\P. Schultz) wrote:

[...]

> I think some people (invariably males, in my experience) use she/her
> for objects that they admire, cherish, or have an affection for. A rifle,
> for instance. "Ain't she a beauty?"

I've never heard a male refer to his admired & cherished penis as a
"she" or "her."

--
Reinhold (Rey) Aman

Lars Eighner

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Nov 11, 2003, 3:23:34 PM11/11/03
to
In our last episode,
<n0b3j3...@hpl.hp.com>,
the lovely and talented Evan Kirshenbaum
broadcast on alt.usage.english:

> Lars Eighner <eig...@io.com> writes:

>> In our last episode,
>> <d4a4fd16.03111...@posting.google.com>,
>> the lovely and talented Eugene Kononov
>> broadcast on alt.usage.english:
>>
>> > Here is my question: is there, in fact, a formal (or informal)
>> > grammatical rule or structure in English that prescribes the use
>> > of the *speaker* gender when the speaker refers to some non-human
>> > things whose gender is either unknown or not even applicable?
>>
>> In traditional English, "he" is used for a person or animal when the
>> actual sex is unknown or unspecified.

> Except for some animals, notably cats. I once had a friend refer to
> her family's cat as "she", when said animal was, at the time, on its
> back and manifestly not female. I think that spiders are "she" by
> default for many people as well.

Pronouns aren't the end of it.

We don't really have a word for a singular bovine of unspecified
sex. In the wild I have heard "Come see us and we'll slaughter a
beef."

"Goose" is the female and also the individual of unspecified sex,
but "horse" is the male and also the individual of unspecified sex,
etc.


--
Lars Eighner -finger for geek code- eig...@io.com http://www.io.com/~eighner/

Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not.
--Friedrich Nietzsche

Robert Bannister

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Nov 11, 2003, 6:56:21 PM11/11/03
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How could I have forgotten 'no better than she should be'!

--
Rob Bannister

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