Why don’t nouns have gender in English they way they do in Spanish, French, or German? Before the Middle English period, nouns in English were either masculine, feminine, or neuter. Over time, however, we’ve moved away from the semantically arbitrary practice of assigning genders to objects that have none. In other words, the linguistic notion of grammatical gender is completely different from biological and social notion of natural gender. Read a chapter about it from Gender Shifts in the History of English by Anne Curzan. This is part of a complete episode.
- Sock it to Me (episode #1557) 11/16/2020: In the 15th century, the word respair meant "to have hope again." Although this word fell out of use, it's among dozens collected in a... [more]
- Good Vibrations (episode #1556) 10/26/2020: Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the... [more]
- Mystery Drawer (episode #1555) 10/12/2020: Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange assignment:... [more]
- Deviled Eggs (episode #1554) 09/14/2020: Some TV commercials launch catchphrases that stick around long after the original ads. The exclamation Good stuff, Maynard! is still a compliment almost 40 years... [more]
- Play It by Ear (episode #1553) 08/31/2020: How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she... [more]