The Gender of a Computer
On the first day of school, a language instructor was explaining to her adult education class that, in French, nouns, unlike their English counterparts, are grammatically designated as masculine and feminine. “House, in French, for example, is feminine – la maison. Pencil is masculine – le crayon,” she said.
One puzzled student asked, “What gender is a computer’?”
The teacher didn’t know, and the word wasn’t in her French dictionary. So, for fun she split the class into two groups, appropriately enough, by gender. And she asked them to decide whether computer should be a masculine or feminine noun. Both groups were required to give four reasons for their recommendation.
The men’s group decided that computers should be of the feminine gender (la computer), because:
- Only their creator understands their internal logic.
- The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.
- Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for possible later retrieval; and
- As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.
The women’s group concluded that computers should be masculine (“le computer”), because:
- To get their attention, you have to turn them on.
- They have a lot of data, but they’re still clueless.
- They’re supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and
- As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you’d waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.
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