Towards a noun-free Southern Europe

Tim the Translator is not happy with a diktat on non-sexist language issued by the Autonomous University of Barcelona, which includes a recommendation to use passive reflexive (which may well be distinct from reflexive passive) constructs like “it will be ruled judicially…” in order to avoid discriminatory acts like “the judge [m] will rule…”. He points out that translators loathe this, because while the latter is crystal clear the former is far less easily comprehensible. According to these guidelines, he says, I should have used “the corps of translators loathes” instead of “translators [m] loathe”. But herein lies his undoing, for “corps” is also masculine and reflects, nudge wink, a (his) vision of a universe structured by gender, in which, for example, día, “day”, is masculine despite ending in “a” because its function is opposed to that of the feminine “night”, passive, dark, incurably evil; hand is feminine, despite ending in “o”, because it receives, and because it is structurally opposite to foot [m], which kicks penalties. (Straying slightly, I think that listeners tend to understand adjectives differently according to whether they have a masculine or feminine termination.)

What are we to do? Some propose using a masculine and a feminine form together (“the judge [m]/the judge [f] will rule…”), or alternating them, or taking the feminine form for a while. But this leads to the not insignificant problem that centuries of sexist use may have led to the two forms not being semantically equivalent–político/política is a popular example. These are half measures insufficient to eradicate the sexist attitudes deeply ingrained in Romance Empire language users. We really need to abandon our decadent Indo-European nominophilia, although I’m not sure how we’d do without nouns, and to tell the truth I’m not really sure what a noun is either.

While we’re on naming, someone told me today that the ETA terrorist arrested yesterday in France was called El Indio or Txeroki/Cheroqui in homage, not to a hitherto-unknown, mullet-coiffed sub-people of the Ozarks, but to a cherry coke produced by Coca-Cola towards the end of the 20th century and popular among pill-fiends. Here’s its anthem, “No hagas el indio, haz el cheroqui”, which you will notice stresses the second syllable of “cherokee” as is customary in Spanish, as opposed to the first or third usual in English:

The devil doesn’t always have the best tunes.

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  1. Two things to clarify:

    – I said “passiva reflexiva”, which would be “reflexive passive” in English, since the adjective comes after the noun in Catalan.

    – It is the document that suggests using “el cos”, not me!

  2. I was thinking that reflexive passive and the other one were both forms of yoga outlawed in several jurisdictions.

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