Friday, May 16, 2008

Computers - masculine or feminine?

Sorry - I'm in a funny sort of mood today.............

A language teacher was explaining to her class that in French, nouns, unlike their English counterparts, are grammatically designated as masculine or feminine.

For example, "House" in French, is feminine - "la maison", "Pencil" in French, is masculine - "le crayon". One puzzled student asked, "What gender is a computer?"

The teacher did not know, and the word was not in her French dictionary.

So for fun she split the class into two groups appropriately enough, by gender, and asked them to decide whether "computer" should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

Both groups were required to give four reasons for their recommendation.

The men's group decided that computer should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la 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 review; and

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

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be masculine ('le 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.


Anonymous said...

Donald and others

I love your blog, but wondered if you had seen Darren Sidnick's blog.

It's fairly new, but it's already my favourite blog (after yours!). He works for Ufi learndirect, and the blogs are quite thoughtful (based on internal research at Ufi and his own, I assume).

I particularly like the one on Mobile learning (in April) and "Please don't tell me I haave to use your Learner Management System - I won't" (in March).

Thank you again for your blog.

Jeremy (

Stephen Downes said...

It's masculine. You can tell my translating 'my computer' to French. It becomes 'mon ordinateur'. The 'mon' agrees with the gender of the noun ('ma' is feminine).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia Ora Donald

What a hoot! Never mind the motherboard.

I will send a link to this site round at work. At TCS there are over 400 teachers, male and female, who all use computers all the time. I'll let you know what sort of reactions I get from it (or maybe they can each leave a comment for themselves!)

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

Hey Donald - did I see you on the 18:05 out of Oslo on Thursday? What were you doing over there?


Donald Clark said...

Yip - spent a few lovely days in Gol at a military conference with some sociable Norwegians, the US guys from ADL and others. Fascinating stuff on military games, ADL and open source LMS in Canada.

Say hello next time.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Donald - well it did go down well - brightened up a Monday morning and the laughter was still being reported to me today (Tuesday), though I notice that you didn't get a comment from anyone at TCS except me.

@Downes - but you've got to laugh Stephen. Theoretically, if the teacher had read your comment we wouldn't have the joke - shades of Back To The Future.

Donald Clark said...

My favourite e-learning joke:

Elliot Masie - TRUE or FALSE?

Anonymous said...

Hilarious and very true. Well, in many ways.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Donald, @Rina - Yes. And the answer is a chicken :-)

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Shape said...

When computers crash they are refered to as real bitches so I guess they are feminine?
Gaming Computers