Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Gender of Computers, and the Passing of Leslie Nielsen

My friend Nadja sent this to me in this morning's e-mail, knowing that I am interested in both language and computers. I'd seen it before, but it's still not only funny, but grammatically correct ...

A teacher was explaining to her class that in German, unlike English, nouns have a grammatical gender - they can be masculine, feminine, or neuter.

For instance, spoon is feminine (die Loeffel) while fork is masculine (der Gabel) and knife is neuter (das Messer).

One of the students asked, "What gender is the word computer?"

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether the word computer should be a masculine or a feminine noun, and to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that computer should definitely be of the feminine gender (die Computer), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be grammatically masculine (der Computer), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they are the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

Imagine that you are the teacher ... who do you think won the argument? Do you have any other arguments in favor of one or the other grammatical gender (yes, Kathy, it's time to put all that experience teaching English to good use)? Add them to the comments.

Finally, take a moment to mourn the passing of one of the great comic actors: Leslie Nielsen. If you've never had the sheer, loopy joy of watching him in the Airplane! films, you are missing one of life's true - if guilty - pleasures. Surely, we'll miss him ... just don't call him Shirley.

Have a good day. More grammatically (if not politically) correct thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

The world lost a great talent and a pretty nice guy from what I heard.


Raquel's World said...

I say male because no matter what you are doing there is always a nude woman lurking around in the memory. That thought of the naked lady makes it impossible to get the computers attention to get back on task. She just keeps popping up just like in a male mind.

Raquel's World said...

Then again could be a woman. Since half the time no matter what you do the computer will tell you that it is an error and you did it wrong.

Leslie David said...

In Latin American and Mexican Spanish it's computadora (f) but in European Spanish it's ordenador. Here's the complete listing I got when I searched one site.

máquina ordenadora

KathyA said...

Shirley, he will be missed!

I think a computer's gender would be male because
1) they don't clean-up after themselves;
2) directions for almost all programs are difficult, if they are to be found;
3) they frequently cannot handle doing more than one job at a time without a melt down.

Then again, this may be just MY computer! :)

Mike said...

I'm one of the grammaticallictical guys you'll ever no.

Bandit said...

We have enjoyed talking about his comedy several times here on your blog, but that's not important now.

Here's to Leslie!!!!!!!!

Mike said...

Most .... I forgot most. It's a grammar thing.