Don My PC in Blue or Pink?
Day 242 – March 20, 2012
From the get-go, let me place up front in this post that I understand that the English language is rife with illogic.
Far better than I could in this space, the comedian Gallagher does a wonderful send-up of my native tongue and shows off how silly it is. As an example, why is it that the words “c-o-m-b” and “t-o-m-b” have the same ending but are pronounced differently?
As I sat with each of my children and watched them learn how to read, my admiration and respect for adults who take on the challenge to learn the English language grew by light years.
With the above being said, I am not finding my acquisition of the Spanish langauge to be effortless. While Spanish does have a much easier pronunciation guide than English, there are some aspects to this idioma that perplex me.
For the past twenty-four weeks – twice a week – I have been taking a course in Spanish learning nouns, adjectives, phrases, and verb conjugation.
For all of the madcap lunacy of English (really, the words “to”, “two”. and “too” all have the same pronunciation), at least I never have to worry if a noun is a male or a female. When I want to refer to a specific instance of a noun, all I need to place in front of that object is “the”. I can talk about “the car”, “the computer”, “the radio”, or “the vorpal rabbit”.
This is not the case in Spanish. When referring to a specific instance of an object in Spanish, the speaker or writer has to use either “el” or “la” depending on the gender of the noun. Masculine nouns get the “el” and feminine nouns are preceded by “la”. Spanish speakers can make comments about “el carro”, “la puerta”, or “la tarjeta”.
Who decides whether a door (puerta) is male or female? Is there some Academy or governmental office that distributes edicts when a new noun is created?
Putting aside the task of memorizing the gender of each noun, there are some examples of this identification that confound me. Why is colonia (cologne) feminine, yet perfume is masculine? Shouldn’t it be the other way based on who wears these items?
Just to make this fe/male aspect of the language even more interesting, not all Spanish-speaking countries follow the same rules. For example, the lesson book for my class uses Mexican-Spanish so the word for computer (computadora) is masculine. Thus, all references to a PC are denoted as el computadora. However, here in Peru, computadora is a feminine noun so when I write out my exercises for my teacher or respond to her questions in class, I always have to say la computadora.
Makes me shake my head, which is a feminine noun (cabeza).
For a classic humorous take as to whether a computer is male or female, jump on over to here.