On Hebrew and Living in Gendered Language.

An interesting piece by Ilana Masad on the difficulty of being a feminist, or transgender, in a Hebrew-speaking environment:

Many people may be familiar with languages like Spanish or French in which nouns are gendered. The main difference between Hebrew and these other languages, however, is that one cannot speak in first or second person in Hebrew without indicating gender. The word “I” is ungendered, but any verb connected to it in present or future tenses inherently is. Thus, the phrase “I want a cookie” becomes, in literal translation, “I female-want a female-cookie.” (Cookie is a female-gendered noun, which I’m okay with, because yum, cookies.) In the example above, the reason the word “canceled” is attached to the word “female” is because “train” is a female subject, grammatically, and thus most verb conjugations describing that train will be gendered.

In other words, interpersonal conversation is never without the indication of gender. Even if you and another person were on two sides of a barrier and your voices were not indicative of your gender, you would each know the other’s gender within a few sentences because of the verb formulations you’d use.
[. . .]

Coming back to Israel after a year away and speaking Hebrew day in and day out again has been a bit of a shock. I have been reminded of the many, many issues women deal with here. For one thing, the correct way to address a group of people in Hebrew is usually with male pronouns and verbs, unless the group is exclusively female. So if a lecture hall is filled with women, but one seat is occupied by a man, the professor is supposed to address the crowd with you-plural-male pronouns and verbs. Announcements at airports and train- and bus-stations similarly address crowds with the second-person-plural-male pronouns, because the assumption is that there will be men there (even one is enough to make this mandatory).

This “correct” way of speaking has been handed down from on high, the Academy of the Hebrew Language, which is “the world’s premiere institution for the Hebrew language, and in Israel, its decisions are binding on all governmental agencies.” The About section of the Academy’s website goes on to say: “Although the Academy has the reputation of being Israel’s ‘language police’, it does not police spontaneous speech. The institution considers its decisions binding only for written texts and formal speeches.”

What does this mean in practice? That formal speeches are addressed to men. That academics address their papers to men. That national examinations are usually addressed to men, with a little asterisk at the bottom of the page or the end of the exam booklet with some version of this disclaimer: “This test is geared towards both men and women.” […] Furthermore, in day-to-day speech, the general second-person pronoun used in hypotheticals or examples of any kind is also gendered male.

The stuff about gendered nouns is silly, but doesn’t affect the author’s main point. (And please, no jokes about LGBTQIA — yes, the terminology can get awkward, but there are good reasons for it.) Thanks, Yoram!

Comments

  1. Charles Perry says:

    I have lived in apartments where the hot-water tap was labeled C and the cold-water tap said H. Practical people don’t get hung up in details like that.

  2. I think that’s somewhat less problematic.

  3. LGBTQIA — couldn’t they have come up with less of a mouthful, like LGBITQA (el-ged-bit-ka) or LAGBIQT (lag-bikt) or something?

  4. I meant LGBITQA (el-gee-bit-ka).

  5. The A in LGBTQIA describes 100% of people for 99% of the time.

  6. It is an interesting article. I hadn’t really thought how this could make it immediately very obvious to a stranger that you were a member of the LGBTQIA community, whether you wanted to talk about that or not.

    I mean, you’re just trying to ask for directions; you sound like a native speaker; but that stranger is already noticing that you use gendered language in a different way.

    This doesn’t happen in English. Which is why there are those ambiguous gender skits with people named Pat.

  7. “In 2008 a proposal was presented to the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London to make the Anthropocene a formal unit of geological epoch divisions.”

    A small sub-epoch of that – negligible on geological time-scales and in every other respect – is the Epicene.

  8. David Eddyshaw says:

    Apropos (yes, really) I discovered only this morning that what a I’ve always assumed “cenotaph” was derived from was wrong. “Empty”, not “common.”

  9. David Eddyshaw says:

    In northern Ghana, none of the indigenous languages distinguishes male/female grammatically, and this gets carried over into their use of Hausa, which in its homeland is like its distant relative Hebrew in forcing the distinction on speakers (though not so much in first persons, as it doesn’t use participles to make the present tense.)

    Many N Ghanaians speaking English basically use he/she in free variation. I coped OK with “he” for women but used to get thrown by “she” for men. Must say something about markedness in my idiolect, I suppose.

  10. In northern Ghana, none of the indigenous languages distinguishes male/female grammatically, and this gets carried over into their use of Hausa, which in its homeland is like its distant relative Hebrew in forcing the distinction on speakers

    Very interesting; thanks for that.

    I coped OK with “he” for women but used to get thrown by “she” for men.

    I recommend reading Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice; you’ll get thoroughly used to it!

  11. Chinese speakers learning English often use “he” instead of “she” and “she” instead of “he”. For some learners usage seems totally random.

    They are, of course, working from Chinese , which is genderless in the spoken language but has been divided into gendered forms on the model of English in the written language (他 for ‘he’, 她 for ‘she’, even 它 for ‘it’ and 牠 for ‘it’ of animals). This mistake always throws me as the same person can change genders several times in a conversation.

  12. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’ve just started the third volume in the trilogy …

    You’ve got to like a series in which the narrator says “She was probably male” and it makes perfect sense in-universe.

  13. It’s part of the stereotype of Highland English to use he and she indiscriminately, especially she for he. I can well believe that during the period when speakers were still thinking mostly in Gaelic that they used he and she instead of it, since Gaelic has only two genders, but male and female persons are as firmly aligned with masculine and feminine genders in Gaelic as in English (or any other IE language).

  14. I’ve seen many Russians confuse he’s and she’s, despite their good command of English and despite the fact that Russian is strongly gendered and uses its he and she-words even wider. I always wondered if there was something phonetically confusing about the English he/she, perhaps in conjuction with the surrounding sounds… a mild tongue-twister of sorts.

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    It might have been worse …

    As every LH habitué knows, the expected reflexes of Old English he “he” and heo “she” in later English would be identical. As far as I know, the origin of “she” is not clear at all, even if the motivation for creating a new pronoun is.

    Now that I think of it, h and s/sh are allophones in a lot of N Ghanaian languages, which probably doesn’t help if you’re trying to remember to make an unfamiliar grammatical distinction too.

  16. Ken Miner says:

    I find it interesting that androgynous gods, such as Hapi, the Ancient Egyptian folk god of the Nile, are always referred to as “he” in English and no one bats an eye. No one attempts “(s)he” where, indeed, it would be most appropriate. (See for example the Wikipedia article on Ardhanarishvara.) Perhaps it is because in such a context “there is no one around to offend”.

  17. An excellent point which had never occurred to me.

  18. but any verb connected to it in present or future tenses inherently is.

    To be exact, subject gender is marked in Hebrew 1st-person verbs only in the present tense:
    ani medaber ‘I (m.) am talking’
    ani medaberet ‘I (f.) am talking’
    (ani) adaber ‘I (m/f) will be talking’
    (ani) dibarti ‘I (m/f) was talking’.

    For second and third person subjects, gender is marked in all three tenses and in the imperative. The main point of the article is still very valid, that one can not easily avoid declaring a male or female gender identity in everyday speech.

    I noticed some years ago that when some women are speaking to each other, one would playfully address the other with masculine pronouns or verbs. I once saw a study on this practice between twins. Apparently there’s a similar thing in Palestinian Arabic, too.

  19. Just to be complete, you sometimes hear the 2nd/3rd person, gender-marked future form of the verb following the 1st person pronoun:

    ani tedaber ‘I (f.) will be talking’
    ani yedaber ‘I (m.) will be talking’

    But that is quite substandard, and at best optional in any register or dialect.

  20. I’ve noticed that in addressing a mixed audience, today’s Hebrew speakers commonly say רבותיי וגבירותיי (loosely “ladies and gentlemen”). Emails to a number of people typically begin חברות וחברים “Friends (f) and friends (m)” or חברותיי וחבריי היקרים “Dear (m.pl) my friends (f) and my friends (m).” I’m sure this style of address has not been adopted by the Orthodox community — which does not even publish a photograph of a woman in its newspapers.

  21. The article is interesting both for itself and, on a meta-level, for how many basic facts she gets wrong about her own native language. (For example, she states that first-person future-tense forms inflect for gender, when in fact they do not.) I guess the U.S. is not the only place where people don’t learn to think clearly about language.

    But fortunately, none of these mistakes affects her points too much.

  22. I find it interesting that androgynous gods, such as Hapi, the Ancient Egyptian folk god of the Nile, are always referred to as “he” in English and no one bats an eye. No one attempts “(s)he” where, indeed, it would be most appropriate. (See for example the Wikipedia article on Ardhanarishvara.) Perhaps it is because in such a context “there is no one around to offend”.

    In Modern Tamil, the respectful form of address is ungendered, so while the verb will conjugated accordingly, it won’t reveal gender. (It’s something I very much like about Tamil, especially as I read about young people claiming all sorts of unusual pronouns in English.)

    I don’t know that referring to Ardhanarishvara as a he would offend though — partially because of the story that Siva “included” Parvati in his body, and partially because obviously being male is better. Ammaiyappan is a male name, not a female name.

  23. You should have all been there when our English teacher tried for the first time to convince our class of 8 and 9-year-old Greeks that nouns and adjectives in English are genderless. As if we would ever believe such an absurdity! We just roared with laughter. Who doesn’t know that the universe is a place of masculine, feminine and neuter words, I wonder!

  24. I’ve noticed that in addressing a mixed audience, today’s Hebrew speakers commonly say רבותיי וגבירותיי (loosely “ladies and gentlemen”).

    Ooops!

    Make that גבירותיי ורבותיי

  25. Y: I never heard “ani tedaber” for a female speaker. The substandard form is “yedaber” across the board, probably for phonotactic reasons alone (and Google אולי אני יכתוב על זה for my theory as posted in Dagesh Kal).
    Another falsehood in the article when verbs are concerned is that french is neutral throughout: all composite verbs (such as passé composé) mark all persons for gender.

  26. Yuval: I’m trying hard to think if I’m imagining ani tedaber or not. For now, I’m not agreeing, not disagreeing with you.

  27. I’ve never heard ani tedaber and it strikes me as wildly ungrammatical. Ani yedaber, on the other hand, is well on its way to displacing ani edaber as the standard colloquial 1sg. masc. form, I’d say. Presumably it began as a phonological misanalysis (there’s practically no difference between […i e…] and […i je…]), which then got extended into other contexts (e.g. the negative ani lo yedaber). (Yuval, your blog post suggests you don’t like this theory, but I don’t quite see what the objection is.)

  28. I agree with the genesis, it’s too obvious to deny (I wrote I “slightly disagree”, referring to the exclusivity of the cause). What I suggested, as a complementary motivator for the shift, is the phenomenon of future-tense pronouns becoming mandatory in normal register (i.e. pro-drop is today limited to the preterite and imperative). If pronouns are always uttered, there’s no reason in keeping the distinct person forms, just like present tense verbs don’t mark for person (in any register).
    Further evidence might even be the phenomenon of using the future tense as the imperative (“tedaber iti” instead of “daber iti”). Imperatives, remember, are still pro-drop, so the two are distinct by the presence of the pronoun, allowing the verb forms to merge with no fear of confusion. Huh, I better post an addendum post. Thanks, TR 🙂

    For good measure, now that I’m on my laptop again, here’s the link.

  29. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Are these gendered verb declined forms derived from deverbals that became reanalysed as finite verbs? I happen to have brought up the topic of gendered verbs in Hindi on another forum not long ago, wondering how this developed from early I-A, which does not seem to have gendered verbs. The above scenario, reverbalised participles, was the gist of the response I got.

    P.S. the only languages I speak with any fluency are English and Chinese, i.e. ones with minimal grammatical gender. In my previous forays into German and French, I never found the elaborate nominal gender system particularly confounding (although perhaps I’d change my mind if I got deeper in). Just another thing to memorise, ho hum. But when I made a foray into Hindi, I found that gender marking on the verbs made my brain hurt basically from the first sentence. Who doesn’t know that the universe is a place of, at the very most, masculine, feminine and neuter nominals, I wonder!

  30. J. W. Brewer says:

    Are the features of Hebrew whereby first-person discourse is inflected differently depending on whether the speaker is (or identifies as, or presents as, or however you want to characterize the basis whereby a particular speaker is aligned with a particular side of the distinction) M or F a continuous inheritance from Biblical Hebrew, or a more recent development associated with the revival (with that ever-contentious debate about how much the revived language ended up being influenced by Standard Average European)?

  31. But when I made a foray into Hindi, I found that gender marking on the verbs made my brain hurt basically from the first sentence.

    But out in the street, extensive use of gender-marking is often heard as foreign or over-educated.

  32. In Benares, anyway.

  33. In Benares, anyway.

    I don’t think so. The details of what counts as “overeducated” may well be particular to Banaras, but textbook gender agreement is often seen as nerdy because spoken varieties don’t go that far, “many varieties show far less gender concord”.

    (Perhaps I should have picked a better citation…)

  34. David Marjanović says:

    Another falsehood in the article when verbs are concerned is that french is neutral throughout: all composite verbs (such as passé composé) mark all persons for gender.

    In writing, yes; for most verbs the written distinction is silent (in the standard).

    P.S. the only languages I speak with any fluency are English and Chinese, i.e. ones with minimal grammatical gender. In my previous forays into German and French, I never found the elaborate nominal gender system particularly confounding (although perhaps I’d change my mind if I got deeper in).

    Well, you speak a language with 20-something semi-transparent noun classes; 3 or 2 mostly opaque genders aren’t really more difficult than that.

  35. If you mean Chinese, there are two points to make: one is that the classifiers have purely local effects, which makes them more like German plural endings than German gender; the other is that except in the most egregious cases, lumping stuff in the ge class is really not a disaster, as native speakers do it all the time.

    If you don’t, then I want to know what the 20-some semi-transparent noun classes of English are! I’m sure they exist in some theoretical framework ….

  36. Greg Pandatshang says:

    P.P.S. Well, in any event, I had quite a bit of exposure to Latin and German before I learned any Chinese. My biases boil down to just English.

  37. @Greg Pandatshang:

    > Are these gendered verb declined forms derived from deverbals that became reanalysed as finite verbs?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, in that the article is specifically about the first person, so the only relevant verb form is the present participle, which inflects for gender and number but not for person. The present tense consists of the present participle; so, for example, “I write” is literally said as “I [am] writing”. (Masculine “I write” = אני כותב /a’ni ko’tev/ = “I writing-m.s.“; feminine “I write” = אני כותבת = /a’ni ko’te.vet/ = “I writing-f.s.“.)

    But no, in that it sounds like you’re interested in Hebrew’s gendered verbs in general — not just the first person — and in the second and third persons, the past and future tenses (which are unambiguously finite) do inflect for gender, especially in the singular. (“He wrote” is הוא כתב /hu ka’tav/, “she wrote” is היא כתבה /hi kat’va/.) If I understand correctly, the same is true of most Afro-Asiatic languages.

    @J. W. Brewer:

    > Are the features of Hebrew whereby first-person discourse is inflected differently depending on whether the speaker is (or identifies as, or presents as, or however you want to characterize the basis whereby a particular speaker is aligned with a particular side of the distinction) M or F a continuous inheritance from Biblical Hebrew, or a more recent development associated with the revival (with that ever-contentious debate about how much the revived language ended up being influenced by Standard Average European)?

    Well, that’s a false dichotomy, and in fact I think the answer is “neither”; there are many aspects of Modern Hebrew that are inherited from earlier forms of Hebrew, but not all the way from Biblical Hebrew, and I think this is one of them. (The use of the present participle to construct the present tense does exist in the Bible, but is rare there, especially in the earlier books; it seems to have become all-pervasive only later — maybe in Late Antiquity? I’m not sure.)

    That said, in every form of Hebrew — like in most European languages — you’d still need to select a gender for any adjectives or (almost) any human nouns that you might use in reference to yourself. (And in every form of Hebrew, you need to know your interlocutor’s gender in order to refer to her: the second-person pronouns are gendered, as are all the second-person verb forms and so on. So you couldn’t really have a gender-neutral conversation even if each of you avoided selecting a gender for yourself.)

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Another falsehood in the article when verbs are concerned is that french is neutral throughout: all composite verbs (such as passé composé) mark all persons for gender.

    This is true for some forms, but not all, and current practice shows a lot of confusion.

    – Verbs used with avoir auxiliary in main clauses:
    Il/Elle a … travaillé ‘S/he … worked’; … / acheté une bague … bought a ring’ /… écrit une lettre ‘… written a letter’

    – Verbs used with être auxiliary in main clauses: the participle agrees in gender and number with the subject: Il est … entré/…sorti ‘He … came in/…went out’; Elle est … entrée/… sortie ‘S/he … came in/… went out; Elles sont … sorties ‘They (fem) … went out.

    – Verbs used in clauses headed by a relative pronoun:
    – Subject pronoun: see examples above; no agreement: La personne qui a travaillé avant vous …

    – Object pronoun: traditional spelling: participle must agree with the noun phrase: (a rule apparently copying Italian usage, adopted in the 1500’s; Spanish does not use agreement in this case)
    La bague que j’ai achetée ‘the ring I bought’, La lettre que j’ai écrite ‘the letter I wrote’

    – Oher cases: no agreement:
    La personne à qui j’ai…/il a … parlé/écrit ‘the person I…/he… spoke/wrote to’

    Because verbs ending in -er such as acheter ‘to buy’ pronounce the verbal endings -er, -é/-ée/-és/-ées (infinitive, masc sg/fem sg/masc pl/fem pl) identically, many, many people confuse them in spelling. Accordingly, in France the spelling rule was officially declared optional. But this identity in pronunciation does not occur with other verbs which have participles ending in other sounds, especially consonants, such as écrire and its participle écrit which can end in -it/-ite/-its/-ites. As a result of the rule, there is now considerable confusion about how to write participles, not only in this particular instance (with Object-relative pronouns) but wherever they occur, such as with the verb être to be, hence for instance Il/Elle est / Ils/Elles sont … entré (passé composé, a verb tense) and also in passive clauses La bague a été acheté ‘the ring has been bought’, La lettre a été écrit ‘the letter has been written’ and even with adjectives.

    Hence “a big mess” even in publications thought to be particular about their use of the language.

  39. marie-lucie – thanks! I really shouldn’t have used the word “all” relating to a language I know as in-passing as French.

  40. I don’t think so.

    Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing with you; how could I, being entirely ignorant of the topic? But I went to your link and it seemed to be about Banaras. I’m perfectly willing to take your word for its being a widespread phenomenon.

  41. Wasn’t there a case in France a few years ago where a murdered woman supposedly wrote in her own blood, while she was dying, [NOM] M’A TUÉ, and this was exposed as a fake by the murderer because she was too educated not to have written TUÉE?

  42. “[E]xposed as a fake by the murderer” = “exposed as a fake perpetrated by the murderer.”

  43. David Marjanović says:

    If you mean Chinese, there are two points to make: one is that the classifiers have purely local effects, which makes them more like German plural endings than German gender; the other is that except in the most egregious cases, lumping stuff in the ge class is really not a disaster, as native speakers do it all the time.

    Yes, that’s what I mean. The effects are that not only numerals, but also demonstrative pronouns, need to be followed by a classifier, which immediately reminds me of gender agreement.

    If you don’t, then I want to know what the 20-some semi-transparent noun classes of English are! I’m sure they exist in some theoretical framework ….

    Heh. 🙂

  44. Yuval and TR, on ani tedaber etc. one of my consultants (mom), whom I’d imagined as one of the users of such, is on your side.

  45. That wasn’t meant to sound as creepy as it does: the italics in “some theoretical framework” should have been just on “some”. But better not to fix it now, I think.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    the 20-some semi-transparent noun classes of English

    If this was about verbs rather than nouns, I would say that the verbs were being classified according to their morphology, eg sing/sang/sung etc, with some classes having only 1 or 2 members while one of them has hundreds of members. But nouns?

  47. It was a joke: it’s really Chinese that has the 20-odd noun classes. David had left it ambiguous and I was pretending that he meant English.

    English has a few classes of plurals, but not as many as 20: regular nouns (open class), -f/ves (closed class), zero (mostly closed, but occasional new ethnic names), umlaut (closed), -en (closed), -a/ae (open, Latin or Greek feminines), -us/i (open, Latin or Greek masculines), -um/a (open, Latin neuters), -on/-a (open, Greek neuters), -is/es (open, Latin or Greek masculines and feminines), -im (open, Hebrew).

  48. is/es (open, Latin or Greek masculines and feminines)

    And their pretentious hangers-on, such as process, with its Academese plural pronounced processeez.

  49. marie-lucie says:

    It is easy to find all those ‘classes’ if you include as “English” a variety of plurals from other languages, for words which are usually part of specialized vocabularies. But when such words become part of the vocabulary of the general population they usually become regularized, either by adding the suffix -s to one of the forms or by using a single form for singular and plural, as in data, bacteria and a few others (which seem to be treated as mass nouns rather than just singular ones). I think that the preservation of such bits of foreign morphology is much more common in English than in other European languages, perhaps originally as a show of erudition. With borrowings (of word and referent) that have become part of everyday life, as with the many Italian food terms (pasta, spaghetti and the like), the words have been adopted under their most common foreign shape and given a regular English plural if not used as mass nouns.

  50. Greg Pandatshang says:

    @Ran,

    So, if I’m understanding correctly, like Hindi, Hebrew added gender-marked verbs for some person/tense combinations via a participle, but unlike Hindi, it added them to an inherited system that included some gender-marked verbs? This appears to be a Proto-Afro-Asiatic trait? If it were limited to a subset, I could imagine it as a more recent areal development.

  51. processeez

    Yes, as if from *processis (proper Latin processus, pl. -ūs).

    usually become regularized

    Perhaps so, though the legitimate members of the -is class resist this: nobody says analysises, basises, crisises, partly because they are hard for anglophones to say. Similarly criteria is overwhelmingly more popular than criterions.

    I left off the -x/-ces class, though every member of it has a regular alternative.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    JC: nobody says analysises, basises, crisises, partly because they are hard for anglophones to say.

    Indeed, one of the problems would be that the antipenultimate stress of the singular would become anti-antipenultimate, something that does not occur in English unless additional stress is placed on the last syllable. Plus, the accumulation of sibilants and high front vowels would probably be reduced in casual pronunciation. In this case, replacing the singular ending -is with -es (or omitting the -is sequence, depending on one’s interpretation of the morphological result) aligns the pronunciation of the plural of these nouns with that of other nouns ending in /s/, as in buses.

    Similarly criteria is overwhelmingly more popular than criterions.
    It is, but I don’t think the two cases are similar since there is nothing particularly odd about pronouncing “criterions” (easier than “centurions”, I think). Criteria patterns with data and bacteria in which the plural form is often used either as a singular or a mass noun.

  53. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. In discussing stress I was going by analysis(es). Basis(es) would not create a stress problem, but the ‘sibilant cluster’ problem would still arise.

  54. @Greg Pandatshang:

    Right. Even setting aside the present participle/present tense, the majority of Hebrew verb forms are inflected for gender (though in colloquial Modern Hebrew, the feminine plural forms have largely disappeared in favor of their masculine plural counterparts, except in the present participle/present tense where both plurals remain robust).

    I’d go into more detail, except that you can probably get a better idea by Googling “Hebrew verb conjugation” than I could reasonably convey in a comment here.

    > This appears to be a Proto-Afro-Asiatic trait? If it were limited to a subset, I could imagine it as a more recent areal development.

    I’m far from an expert on the subject, so if you’re interested, you should probably look into it yourself; but as far as I can tell, there’s consensus that the gendered verb forms derive from Proto-Afroasiatic antecedents, and the majority view is that these antecedents were already finite verb forms with subject agreement (as opposed to verb forms + pronouns or whatnot, as they may have been in some ancestor of Proto-Afroasiatic that can’t be reconstructed by the comparative method). But again, if you’re really interested, then I’m the wrong person to be asking.

  55. per incuriam says:

    Wasn’t there a case in France a few years ago where a murdered woman supposedly wrote in her own blood, while she was dying, [NOM] M’A TUÉ, and this was exposed as a fake by the murderer because she was too educated not to have written TUÉE?

    The grammar/spelling mistake was in fact M’A TUER i.e. using the Infinitive for the past participle. The phrase became quite the snowclone in France.

    Incidentally, the evidence showed that this would not have been the first time the victim had made this error – there was an invoice, for example, on which she had written payer for payé.

  56. In this case, replacing the singular ending -is with -es (or omitting the -is sequence, depending on one’s interpretation of the morphological result) aligns the pronunciation of the plural of these nouns with that of other nouns ending in /s/, as in buses.

    Actually it does not, except in appearance: analyses is pronounced /-iz/, and can’t be mistaken for a regular plural. This is what TR was referring to above, the pretentious use of /-iz/ in the regular plural processes, as if it were irregular. Unfortunately, English spelling is even less help than usual.

    I don’t think the two cases are similar

    I don’t think so either. I merely meant that for whatever reasons, phonological or idiosyncratic, many English nouns with foreign plurals robustly resist nativization. (I first wrote “regularization”, but the alliteration got to me.)

  57. processeez

    That one has driven me up the wall all my adult life; I can’t seem to let it go.

    I left off the -x/-ces class, though every member of it has a regular alternative.

    And some of us occasionally add Kleenex to it.

  58. @John Cowan: People definitely do say “basises” and “crisises.”

  59. An error particularly common to us furriners is to say “suffices” for “suffixes”. It says something about the psychology of (L2 at least) morphology, because “suffices” is already there, but made of “suffice”. “Prefices” is unheard-of, probably because there is no such word as “prefice”.

  60. The word centurions always brings to mind the “phonetic English” version of the noble and powerful Welsh national anthem. This was written by the poet Nigel Jenkins of Swansea to give anglophone Welsh people something to sing when the anthem is performed by a crowd:

    My hen laid a haddock, one hand oiled a flea,
    Glad farts and centurions threw dogs in the sea
    I could stew a hare here and brandish Dan’s flan,
    Don’s ruddy bog’s blocked up with sand.

    Chorus:
    Dad! Dad! Why don’t you oil Auntie Glad?
    Can’t whores appear in beer bottle pies?
    O butter the hens as they fly!

    The original is as follows:

    Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
    Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
    Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,
    Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.

    Chorus:
    Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad.
    Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,
    O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau.

    Literal English rendering:

    The old land of my fathers is dear to me,
    Land of bards and singers, famous men of renown;
    Her brave warriors, very splendid patriots,
    For freedom shed their blood.

    Chorus:
    Nation, nation, I am faithful to my nation.
    While the sea is a wall to the pure, most loved land,
    O may the old language endure.

    John Wells’s side-by-side transcription of the Welsh in a Southern accent and the English in a Southern Walian accent. Welsh stress is penultimate except as marked: vowel length has been ignored.

    maj hen wlad vən hadaj ən anujl i mi / maj hen lejd ə hadək wən hand ojld ə fliː
    gwlad bajrð a xantorjon enwogjon o vri /glad faːts and sentiwrjənz θriw dogz in ðə siː
    aj gurol rəvelwir gwladgarwir tra mad / aj kud stiw ə heə jəːr and brandiʃ danz flan
    dros rəðid koɬasant aj gwajd / donz rədi bogz blokt əp wið sand
    gwlad | gwlad | plajdjol ujv im gwlad / dad | dad | waj doːnt iw ojl anti glad
    tra mor ən vir ir bir hof baj / kan hoəz əpiər in biə botl pajz
    o bəðed ir hen jajθ barˈhaj / o bətə ðə henz az ðej flaj

    Cartoon for memorizing the English version.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    per incuriam: woman who wrote … [NOM] M’A TUÉ, … [not] TUÉE?

    The grammar/spelling mistake was in fact M’A TUER i.e. using the Infinitive for the past participle.

    This was a spelling mistake (a very common one), not a grammar one, since with a verb ending in an infinitive suffix other than -er (therefore not having a participle in é) she would not have used the infinitive: for instance, X m’a entendu(e) ‘X heard me’ would NEVER be replaced *m’a entendRE. Similarly for X m’a suivi(e) ‘… followed me’ (never *m’a suivRE), of m’a vu(e) ‘saw me’ (never *m’a vOIR).

  62. analyses is pronounced /-iz/, and can’t be mistaken for a regular plural

    Unless it were a regular plural of a form ending in /-i/. I have heard people use parenthesee and verticee for the singular forms.

  63. Ow!

  64. A couple interesting cases are tamale, which was reconstructed from the Spanish plural of tamal, and Reese’s pieces, which is pronounced by many Americans as /ˈrisiz ˈpisiz/.

  65. marie-lucie says:

    Homo sapien.

  66. Bicep.

  67. Oh, and when I was a boy, some of my classmates couldn’t wait to get their huntin licen.

  68. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say /ˈrisiz ˈpisiz/. I definitely have heard /ˈrisiz/, but I imagined this to be essentially a contraction: the speaker is eliding the /ɨz ˈp/ and the second /sɨ/. Incidentally, this is a serious pet peeve of mine. My inner prescriptivist shakes off the hoarfrost, rears its ugly head, and thinks “Never learned to talk so good, eh? What are you, 6 years old?”

  69. Chinee, Portuguee.

    Not to mention pea, cherry, sherry.

  70. Bermuda.

  71. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Wasn’t there a case in France a few years ago where a murdered woman supposedly wrote in her own blood, while she was dying, [NOM] M’A TUÉ, and this was exposed as a fake by the murderer because she was too educated not to have written TUÉE?

    The grammar/spelling mistake was in fact M’A TUER i.e. using the Infinitive for the past participle. The phrase became quite the snowclone in France.

    It’s been in the news again this week as lawyers for the accused man (who was released from prison but till technically guilty) expect that renewing the DNA tests of the blood will be revealing, and perhaps point the finger at the real murderer.

    Round about the time of the original trial it did indeed become a snowclone, and when Jacques Chirac thought that Edouard Balladur — his “friend of thirty years” — had usurped his God-given right to succeed Mitterrand as President there was a cartoon showing a dying Chirac next to a wall on which was written “Edouard m’a tuer”.

  72. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Chinee, Portuguee

    I’ve come across “heathen Chinee” quite often in old books, and once, I think “Portugoose” in a 19th century novel. There seems to be quite a lot of modern hits for “Portugoose” in web pages, but also Google ngrams indicates a maximum around 1910.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    I see! Many Portugeese, so one Portugoose. Of course.

  74. Wasn’t there a case in France a few years ago where a murdered woman supposedly wrote in her own blood, while she was dying, [NOM] M’A TUÉ, and this was exposed as a fake by the murderer because she was too educated not to have written TUÉE?

    Perhaps I should explain how I made this mistake in the first place. I heard about this case on American radio (NPR), and the reporter explained only that there was “a very subtle difference” between the correct spelling and what was written. I inferred the rest. The difference between TUÉE and TUER doesn’t seem subtle to me at all, but then I’m not an American journalist.

  75. Nor, to be sure, am I a native speaker of French who learned the pronunciation years before the spelling.

  76. marie-lucie says:

    RC, Don’t apologize! The spellings with and without final E are very close, but since the pronunciation is the same for the various spellings, the difference between the letters E and R, neither of which represents a sound in this environment, might not look important.

  77. David Marjanović says:

    but unlike Hindi, it added them to an inherited system that included some gender-marked verbs? This appears to be a Proto-Afro-Asiatic trait?

    Yes. In Indo-European*, the distinction between masculine and feminine is an afterthought; in Afro-Asiatic, it is really inbuilt. Examples here.

    * And then only in the non-Anatolian branch. The Anatolian languages had just two genders – animate and inanimate.

  78. I once encountered strange term ‘руссянзы’ in translation of American SF novel.

    Being unfamiliar with the word, I thought initially that it was some new strange race of aliens, but it didn’t make much sense in the context, so I checked the original and discovered there that it was actually ‘Russians’

  79. David Eddyshaw says:

    @David Marjanović:

    In Hausa, which is on any showing a good deal more remote from the Semitic languages than English is from Urdu, nevertheless the perfective verb prefixes go

    2sg masculine ka
    2sg feminine ki
    3sg masculine ya
    3sg feminine ta

    … and right away anybody familiar with Arabic or Hebrew or Akkadian recognises old friends across thousands of miles and thousands of years of separation.

    It continually amazes me as a native speaker of a language without grammatical gender just how incredibly tenacious grammatical gender is over time. What seems so arbitrary and illogical if you’re a speaker of English or Japanese or Turkish or Nahuatl or Mooré is obviously in reality one of the default modes of human speech.

  80. It continually amazes me as a native speaker of a language without grammatical gender just how incredibly tenacious grammatical gender is over time. What seems so arbitrary and illogical if you’re a speaker of English or Japanese or Turkish or Nahuatl or Mooré is obviously in reality one of the default modes of human speech.

    But something can be arbitray and illogical, and yet have useful functions. Take German, for instance. So-called “gender” in nouns and pronouns provides wider variability in word order, in contrast with “ungendered” languages. Forward and backward references become possible as speech is produced. “Gender” is a mechanism of self-referentiality within sentences that gives speakers a certain freedom from the constraints of linearity which are always present: one damned word after another. A certain type of on-line working memory must develop along with this mechanism, yielding German – or it doesn’t, yielding English.

  81. Which shows that gender seems arbitrary and illogical only when you want to understand it in terms of essences (male/female) rather than function.

  82. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I once encountered strange term ‘руссянзы’ in translation of American SF novel.

    This s ort of thing can happen even with closely related languages. I recently mentioned Maud Menten, as a speaker as Halkomelem. When I first saw her par about 45 years ago I was puzzled that it named her as Miß Maud L. Menten. What is this strange word Miß, I thought, which didn’t appear in my German dictionary. It took a moment to realize that it was an ordinary English word with ss written as ß. Would a modern German printer make the same substitution if an English word appeared in some German text?

  83. Not in the wake of the last German Spelling Reform.

  84. I once encountered strange term ‘руссянзы’ in translation of American SF novel. […] I checked the original and discovered there that it was actually ‘Russians’

    Thanks, I needed a good laugh this morning!

  85. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stu Clayton

    “Forward and backward references become possible as speech is produced. ”

    Of Yimas, which has ten basic noun classes, and several others with one member each, because you can never have too many genders, William Foley in his grammar says

    ” … in the Yimas creation legend, there is an important prop which is introduced and then ignored for a reasonably long stretch of discourse, about 3 pages; it is then reintroduced, but only through the use of its corresponding pronominal prefix. This is because, being Class VII dual, a relatively rare combination, there is no chance of confusion with any other referent.”

    Apparently the children are all speaking Tok Pisin nowadays. A great pity, but who shall blame them?

  86. Stu Clayton says:

    Why is that a pity ? Nobody deserves praise or distinction for speaking German instead of English, or even both. To believe the contrary is to stumble over a dorky “obstacle épistemologique”, as Bachelard called it.

  87. An instance of “heathen Chinee”:

    Which I wish to remark,
      And my language is plain,
    That for ways that are dark
      And for tricks that are vain,
    The heathen Chinee is peculiar,
      Which the same I would rise to explain.

    —Bret Harte, “Plain Language from Truthful James” (1870)

    Related, I think, is T. S. Eliot’s “Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles”:

    Now the Peke, although people may say what they please,
    Is no British Dog but a Heathen Chinese.
    And so all the Pekes when they heard the uproar,
    Some came to the window, some came to the door;
    There were surely a dozen, more likely a score.
    And together they started to grumble and wheeze
    In their huffery-snuffery Heathen Chinese.

  88. I think the point is that it would be a great pity if all the German-speakers were to abandon the use of German entirely, and go to speaking English always and everywhere, so that German literature (and all peoples have literature, even if they do not write) became as dead as Latin literature or more so.

  89. In re mechanical application of spelling rules, I once saw the word division Motherfuk- ker in German. 30 years ago, so it may not be an issue after the latest reform.

    (And why do standards organizations keep reforming spelling and sorting rules to make word processing easier, long after all modern word processors have built in the old complex rules?)

  90. Stu Clayton says:

    Nobody has challenged me to produce an example of a “forward reference”.

  91. With the new rules it would be Motherfuck-er, as in English.

  92. Stu Clayton says:

    Example of forward reference (ie one that creates expectations as the sentence unfolds):

    Someone did something with the best intentions to do good, and the result was unfortunate. “Diese von der Intention her löbliche Handlung wirkte sich unerfreulich aus.”

  93. Such sentences, so-called “periodic sentences”, are also possible in English, though not ones as extreme as this. “Whether by peer pressure or through her own idea, Mary tried out for and successfully joined the glee club.” In The Great Gatsby we find “Halfway between West Egg [Great Neck, L.I.] and New York City sprawls a desolate plain, a gray valley where New York’s ashes are dumped.” Mark Twain parodied the German style by referring to “the on-the-other-side-of-the-river-lying mountains”.

  94. David Marjanović says:

    With the new rules it would be Motherfuck-er, as in English.

    No, the other way around: Motherfu-cker. You can even separate A-cker nowadays.

    “Diese von der Intention her löbliche Handlung wirkte sich unerfreulich aus.”

    With a bit of punctuation, this works in English, even though it works less well: “This – by its intention praiseworthy – act”…

    Mark Twain parodied the German style by referring to “the on-the-other-side-of-the-river-lying mountains”.

    Except for the hyphens that’s a straight rendering: die auf der anderen Seite des Flusses liegenden Berge really is how we write even today.

  95. [It] really is how we write even today.

    Yes, I noticed that reading a recent paper on Academia, and it’s a bit surprising to a Dane. Danish academic prose up to the middle of the previous century indulged in much the same sort of complexity, but it’s lost all prestige now.

    A noun phrase like for instance ‘en på grund af sit i almenhed ganske svært begrænsede anvendelsesområde og sin i øvrigt ofte meget ringe praktiske betydning yderst sjældent anvendt paragraf’ is still quite possible, and not at all wrong — no harder to parse than a long parenthetical remark — but it feels extremely unmodern. (I’d rewrite it as ‘en paragraf som yderst sjældent anvendes på grund af …’).

  96. works in English

    Naaah, not really. “This act, by its intention praiseworthy” is the most I can swallow even in the most formal English short of Milton (who tortured English syntax in order to keep his sentences both grammatical and having the right images in the right order[*]). And then acts don’t really have intentions, it’s the actors who have them.

    A-cker

    English has a hyphenation rule against leaving just one letter either at the end of the previous line or the beginning of the next one.

    [*] Here’s the first sentence of Paradise Lost, which pretty much has to be parsed by hand even by an educated native speaker:

    Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
    Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
    Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
    Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
    That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
    In the beginning how the heavens and earth
    Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
    Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
    Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
    Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,
    That with no middle flight intends to soar
    Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues
    Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

    Note that the main verb (in the imperative) is not until the sixth line, and is immediately followed by an immense vocative phrase, so that the prose grammar is “Sing of [this and that], heavenly Muse that [many qualifiers and descriptions]. But if you don’t even try to parse it, and just let the images
    flow over you you get something like:

    Man’s first disobedience
    fruit of the forbidden tree
    brought death into the world
    all our woe
    loss of Eden
    one greater Man restore us
    regain the blissful seat
    sing, heavenly Muse
    on the secret top of Horeb or Sinai
    inspired the Shepherd
    first taught the chosen
    in the beginning
    the heavens and the earth
    out of chaos
    Zion’s hill
    Siloam’s brook
    by the oracle of God
    invoke your aid
    my adventurous song
    no middle (= mediocre) flight
    soar above the Aonian mount [home of the Muses]
    pursue things not yet attempted yet in prose or rhyme

    Which is much more like Pound than Milton, but is one strand of Milton’s meaning.

  97. And then acts don’t really have intentions, it’s the actors who have them.

    What I wrote was not “This act, by its intention praiseworthy”, but: “Diese von der Intention her löbliche Handlung…”. This means: “this act, praiseworthy with regard to what it was intended to achieve…”

    To discuss seriously what “works” when translating, one must do more than ape parts of speech.

    It seems that my point about “forward reference” has been drowned out by talk of “periodic sentences”. I am getting at something different.

    When one hears “die”, “eine”, “diese” etc as a German sentence is being produced, one naturally expects a noun to follow. Similarly with “the”, “a” in English. However, the gender in German allows you to defer gratification a bit longer than in English.

    In my example, the next “unbound” noun (or adjective) having the gender of “diese” that turns up, will lock into that “diese”. “Intention” was already bound by the “der” that precedes it in “von der Intention her” as that moved past the listener, so he is still expecting something that “diese” will lock into. That turns out to be “Handlung”.

    “von [dem/der] X her”, by the way, is a fixed expression with fixed meaning, so it disturbs the listener even less as he waits for the forward reference of “diese” to be resolved. Actually he’s not “waiting”, but just “expectant”. No time is being lost, he’s not frustrated.

    In German, the listener has (acquired) a certain kind of short-term working memory that makes this perfectly natural and easy in short senteces – a kind of memory different from that acquired in English. My explanation in the preceding paragraph is not a substitute for that working memory.

  98. As was pointed out long ago, this “working memory” is like the stack of a PDA.

  99. Mark Twain parodied the German style by referring to “the on-the-other-side-of-the-river-lying mountains”.

    German style? I thought this was just the norm of left-branching languages.

  100. Twain probably didn’t know any other left-branching languages.

  101. In any case, Twain was specifically talking about the oddities of German from an anglophone perspective, indeed a rather more ignorant perspective than he actually possessed, humoris causa. He similarly complains about the capitalization of nouns by citing a sentence (real or invented) in which he reads Tannenwald as ‘fir forest’ when it is actually a proper name, with comic results. (As far as I know, this is not a known compound in German, though transparent enough.)

    See also “The Awful German Language”, which has many more examples of the same thing.

  102. John: (As far as I know, [Tannenwald] is not a known compound in German, though transparent enough.)

    Tannenwald” is as known as a known compound can be. It is only secondarily a proper name.

    German speakers usually take such a proper name in their stride, without thinking twice about it, and without giggling. That’s just the way it is. Here’s another example: in a nearby street I walk through with the dog, I recently noticed an optician’s. I need a new pair of glasses, so I thought I would go there. I registered the name above the entrance, “Optik Dumm”, but didn’t register “Dumm” as “dumm” until your comment about “Tannenwald”.

  103. fisheyed: German style? I thought this was just the norm of left-branching languages.
    Hat: Twain probably didn’t know any other left-branching languages

    So both of you are taking German ito be a “left-branching” language ? Perhaps one of you would care to correct the WiPe article Branching (linguistics):

    Branching (linguistics)

    Languages like English and German – though regarded as being right-branching because the main verbs precede direct objects – place adjectives and numerals before their nouns.

  104. So both of you are taking German ito be a “left-branching” language ?

    I said that the phrase referred to as “German style” sounded like the normal way of expression for left-branching languages. I don’t know German or what it does.

  105. Well, the capitalization distinguishes Dumm from dumm, but Tannenwald looks the same in either sense.

  106. David Marjanović says:

    English has a hyphenation rule against leaving just one letter either at the end of the previous line or the beginning of the next one.

    German used to.

    I registered the name above the entrance, “Optik Dumm”, but didn’t register “Dumm” as “dumm” until your comment about “Tannenwald”.

    Are such names regionally common somewhere? I found it very funny indeed when a Professor Wolfgang Deppert (dialectal dysphemism for “stupid”) appeared on TV and was treated by the moderator in all seriousness.

    Languages like English and German – though regarded as being right-branching because the main verbs precede direct objects –

    Interestingly, the beginning of the same article commits to even less: “English has both right-branching (head-initial) and left-branching (head-final) structures, although it is more right-branching than left-branching.”

    Complications: 1) English, and German even more so, preserve lots of vestiges from a left-branching past; 2) one of these is the fact that main verbs usually precede direct objects in German main clauses, but always follow them in German subordinate clauses – I’m not sure if it’s easy to say that one is more basic than the other.

  107. I found it very funny indeed when a Professor Wolfgang Deppert (dialectal dysphemism for “stupid”) appeared on TV and was treated by the moderator in all seriousness.

    Sure, a giggle is always there for the having. Somehow, though, such a name is not felt to be “inherently” 100% funny or ridiculous – otherwise the bearers would have changed their name. It’s a curious phenomenon that I don’t pretend to be able to explain.

    Another example: due to the popularitly of “Pirates of the Caribbean” here in Germany, I have often heard people talking about Johnny Depp, but never with a giggle. It would be possible to giggle, sure – but it must happen so rarely that I just haven’t heard it.

    In the Cologne telephone book I find Katrin Ungeheuer and Ralf Ungewitter. Nearby in Meckenheim there is Dr. med. Martina Ungeheuer-Kuhn.

  108. David Marjanović says:

    Johnny Depp is so famous that everyone has gotten used to his name.

    In the Cologne telephone book I find Katrin Ungeheuer and Ralf Ungewitter. Nearby in Meckenheim there is Dr. med. Martina Ungeheuer-Kuhn.

    Not bad!

  109. But are there any Ungeheuer-Ungeziefers?

  110. I remember being somewhat bemused by the Widerlichstraße in Erlangen, which rather than an indication of the state of the street turned out to be based on a surname.

  111. Fritz Widerlich was notably unsuccessful until he changed his name to Wunderlich.

  112. (N.b.: I just made that up; do not add it to his Wikipedia article!)

  113. Some people, even in name-conscious America, are accepting or even rather proud of their absurd names. Big Jim Hogg, the 20th governor of Texas, named his socialite daughter Ima Hogg, and she stuck with it all her life, though she put “I. Hogg” on her stationery. According to WP, she was named after a character in her uncle Thomas Hogg’s epic poem The Fate of Marvin (a name which is funny all by itself, never mind in an epic poem). She did not, however, have sisters named Ura or Hoosa, as rumor would have it.

    And be sure no amount of “Cowhead”-style teasing (and I got plenty as a child) would ever induce me to modify my name in the slightest.

  114. Johnny Depp is so famous that everyone has gotten used to his name.

    Getting used to it: that must be the principle that makes peculiar names less peculiar. Also, there is a element of class consciousness here. Well-brought-up people are brought up to tell themselves: “WE don’t stoop to laugh”.

  115. David Marjanović says:

    If that isn’t photoshopped, it’s right up there with Am Rong, the spokesman of the Khmer Rouge.

  116. There was a story in my family about someone with the last name Springimbett (“Jumps in Bed”), with the explanation that back in the day European Jews would sometimes be forced to take on unflattering names. I’ve no idea how much truth there is to any of this.
    Another story involved someone who through marriage got the last name Nacht-Topf (‘Chamber-Pot’), but that sounds suspiciously like the sort of joke my great-uncle would come up with.

  117. David Marjanović says:
  118. David Marjanović says:

    Snopes does not issue a verdict, but explains:

    Phuc Dat Bich originally posted the image to his Facebook account [link] in January 2015 after he was allegedly fed up with attempting to prove that “Phuc Dat Bich” was his real name. While Bich claimed that Facebook shut down his account numerous times because they mistakenly thought that his name was a joke, it should be noted that Bich’s account is currently active:

    […]

    While it isn’t definitive proof that the passport photo is real, it should be noted that Phuc Dat Bich’s birthday on Facebook matches the information on his passport:

  119. I’m sad to say, Phuc Dat Bich is a fake.

  120. David Marjanović says:

    Too bad.

  121. Phooey! But it was a brilliant hoax, and I’m glad he did it.

  122. Why would Snopes even mention the fact that the Facebook birth date matches the passport birth date? It would be a pretty stupid hoax if they didn’t match, and it’s trivial to make them match. That was evidence of nothing.

  123. marie-lucie says: I see! Many Portugeese, so one Portugoose. Of course.

    And in much the same way, a male inhabitant of Michigan is a Michigander; a female, a Michigoose.

  124. Then again, P.D.B. could be real and “Joe Carr” could be the faker. Not everyone who admits to a crime (figuratively speaking) has actually committed it.

  125. David Marjanović says:

    Lazar’s source says Bich isn’t a Vietnamese surname.

  126. The dangers of using gendered forms in Hebrew. Spoof, but funny and related.

  127. That’s hilarious: “Investigators in Israeli counterintelligence have caught a foreign agent when the man unwittingly exposed himself by being the only person who used grammatically correct Hebrew, Shin Bet sources reported today.”

  128. I would have passed for a spy, then. I certainly say ani eshmor, and some years ago began to make a conscious effort to use the plural feminine forms, which are almost obsolete in common speech. It just seemed more natural to me.

  129. Yes, I did assume that the universality of obsolescence of these forms was exaggerated for comedic effect.

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