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Re: [BKARTS] strange typo in recent books from Latin America
I actually find English, my native language, a bit awkward at times when I
*do* wish to signal gender. Not being a native speaker of Spanish (although
I have near-native fluency), I have to defer to native speakers in the
judgment of the presence or absence of a problem, retracting only in part my
assertion of the viability of the solution.
For nouns that don't refer to creatures with physical sex (that are M, F or
both), the terms "masculine" and "feminine" refer, of course, to a
grammatical pattern often (but not always) exemplified by nouns that do
refer to creatures with physical sex. I find comments of the sort "how
strange that a desk (escritorio) in Spanish is male and a table (mesa)
female" irritating enough to require a calming breath before responding
(should I choose to do so).
I do find it odd that one of the outcomes of the last 40 years of seeking
accuracy and equity of personal reference (in various sorts of nouns,
pronouns, and adjectives applied to women or to women and men) is a perhaps
somewhat obsessive need to signal the gender composition of a group of
people, although seldom beyond the composite of XXs and XYs (and not into
XXY and XYX, intersexuals, trans folk, etc.). I suppose we've put a bit
farther out the (necessary?) categorical elision of "basic groups necessary
to signal in addressing or in speaking/ writing about a mixed set of
As a woman, I've never much liked being subsumed into the masculine form of
words, nor been much convinced that it really is inclusive, especially when
met with comments of the "yes, but ..." sort. Spanish, like most romance
languages, has a whole series of pairs (for professions, often) in which the
feminine is a bit despective, e.g. "poeta" vs. "poetisa" which has similar
value to "poet" vs. "poetess" in English. Once upon a time I held a
fellowship, which meant I was a "fellow" -- and the guys who held the same
fellowship assured me that it was a non-gendered term; while they were
amenable to women being called "fellows," they were not amenable to "guys"
being called "gals" -- following out the synonym for "fellow" to a term that
does have a feminine equivalent. Funny, that.
In terms of the scope of this list (the design of texts not so much books in
this case), the issue of *how* one signals gender in plurals in the case at
hand, for *me*, lies in the fact that the "at sign" is disproportional to
the vowels in the font, and often rendered independently of the font itself,
i.e. @, at least as gmail is rendering it on *my* screen looks almost italic
or cursive and of a different design altogether from the sans serif that
gmail labels "normal" as a typeface.
And perhaps that gmail label is really the question: what's "normal" for
gender reference? "normal" for a typographical solution to a problem, in
the considered judgment of apparently a significant number of (educated)
native speakers (from Colombia to Argentina to Mexico, I might add), "PC" or
The complaint that "it's unpronounceable" suggests that there *should* be a
direct relationship between the graphemes of a written or printed word and
the pronunciation of that word. While there are moral or practical
arguments made for such a correspondence, I personally find them
unconvincing; the actual instances of languages and writing systems that
have even a tendency to such seem to me to be exceedingly rare. The impulse
itself often tends to want to erase history as embodied in the languThe
International Phonetic Alphabet is useful to linguists, but makes the rest
of us cringe at the thought of common usage; the Roman alphabet is at the
least flexible in local use, if a bit puzzling to non-locals.
Personally, I think you *should* sound like where you're from. For example,
phonetically and lexically, I am a native speaker of English from the
Southern U.S., in particular northern Alabama. There, I do not have an
accent, no matter what visiting yankees think; here, I do.
I think "globalizing" language isn't a whole lot better than globalizing
Walmart, if you simply erase the notion that there *are* other local forms
and the notion that those other versions of the language are of equal value
in their own contexts. There are no true "native speakers" of the Standard
Formal version of any language -- in part, that's why we spend so much time
in school: to master the Standard Formal version of the native tongue we
learned from the people around us when we were born and growing up.
These musings are perhaps not as far off the thematics/problematics of this
list (to use English versions of two very useful Romance terms: temática /
problemática), in that art and craft, it would seem to me, would fall on the
side of the local, the particular, the vernacular, if you oppose those to
"standardization" in its industrial & (consumer) capitalist sense...
This is getting LONG for an email discussion list, as opposed to a
in re: getting one's bearings: "there's very little work space on the
pendulum and absolutely NONE in the pit" Christine E Allen
People like to imagine that because all our mechanical equipment moves so
much faster, that we are thinking faster, too. -Christopher Morley, writer
One of the indictments of civilizations is that happiness and intelligence
are so rarely found in the same person. -William Feather, author, editor and
There are no chaste minds. Minds copulate wherever they meet. -Eric Hoffer,
philosopher and author (1902-1983)
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