Outside Listening: Lexicon Valley, When Nouns Grew G******s

First, I should say that I’m a podcast junkie. I have found them to be comforting reminders of home. Second, I should tell you that I like languages, linguistics, semantics and cultural studies in general. MGFI would tell you how I also like to overanalyze the “but why’s” in life to the point where she would love to bang her head into a wall for silence…but that’s not only mostly(ok, maybe only slightly) untrue, it’s also a little off topic. Moving on, it is completely true that I have always been fascinated with word origins and changing usages throughout time and cultures. My first love is English but as you know, I’m flirting with and trying to woo Portuguese at the moment. Attempting to learn another language while being immersed in the culture has enriched my love of language so much and it has also made me question some things that I, as a native English speaker, had never really had to deal with before on a daily basis. Enter the conundrum of grammatical gender or nouns being boys and girls who need matching adjectives and pronouns. So many times while learning Portuguese I question why certain nouns are the gender they are. For example, I think ocean, “mar”, should be a girl. Well, one day I stumbled across the podcast Lexicon Valley from Slate. Just when I thought they couldn’t top their already awesome episodes, including The Meaning of Scrabble, last week they aired this- When Nouns Grew G******s . It’s a look at the origins of certain languages making their nouns masculine and feminine and what possible affect that has on the way that said objects are viewed. They also discuss how some languages assign different genders to objects than others do and what might be the cultural significance behind that. I love it! They say they are going to do more episodes on this topic in the weeks to come. I can’t wait. If you’re interested in this kind of thing as well, I highly recommend it.

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