Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Things I would like to know today...

  • Why do some languages have gendered nouns and articles and English doesn't? The reasons I have seen so far include that nouns were gendered to distinguish between things that were typically masculine and typically feminine, and things that were animate and inanimate. Still doesn't explain why English got rid of them while so many related languages did not. Also doesn't explain why there isn't more of a movement to get rid of them in the languages that still have them, especially from a feminist perspective. For example, what does it tell you that the originary form of the word "doctor" in French is masculine, and you have to change the ending to make it feminine? That doctors are assumed to be men, which isn't fair. Think about English and the whole actor/ actress thing. Now, there are male actors and female actors, which eliminates any gender bias; makes total sense to me.
  • What is the point of the Ontario government proposing a 50% voluntary ban on plastic grocery bags by 2010 or whatever it is? For one thing, 50% isn't enough. For another, making it voluntary isn't enough. Put the two together, and the whole plan sounds pretty useless to me. However, grocery stores seem to be getting smarter. Our local Superstore (and I'm sure they're all doing it now) gives us an extra 50 PCPoints (if you bank with PC, which we do because it's free, which rocks) for each reusable grocery bag we bring with us. When PCPoints equal free groceries, that's pretty good incentive for me. It makes sense for the grocery companies too, because then they are a) making a profit off of the people who buy their reusable bags and b) they aren't supplying plastic bags for free. No Frills has been charging for bags for years, which is very smart. But an even better way would be for the Ontario government to just ban the bags entirely.
  • Why am I currently so terrible at photography? I mean, I don't expect to be an expert in a month, but I'm pretty horrid at the moment. I think I need to take some classes or something. Sigh. If only I were in some way talented artistically. I can crochet, and that's about it. Oh, and I can write, but not creatively. Sigh. One day I will find my gift, and then look out world! Until then, writing lots of essays and taking mediocre photos it is.


Purple Mangos said...

My opinion on your questions, assuming you care, which you might not, but you asked:

1) Gender is a feature of all inflected languages, which English was never meant to be. English adopted the structure of inflected languages, but it was never a comfortable fit (try translating proper French directly into English -- English was never meant to handle such complex clausal structures), which is why English has slowly been reverting back to a more natural state. (The development of languages and linguistics is sort of a side-interest of mine.)

2) Because doing it any other way would be too expensive to enforce, and it's better than nothing. At the very least, it has created a discussion about the issue. Stores won't do it on their own because they will lose business if they are less convenient than other stores. Also, the stores that charge for bags didn't start doing it to save the environment. They just use that as an excuse to keep up a practice that most stores were pressured out of 20 years ago. Banning plastic bags also wouldn't necessarily improve the environment, since many of the alternatives are also hard on the environment when produced, paper being the best example of that.

3) Creativity isn't the problem -- skill is. Photography is like music. You have to practice alot and be terrible for several years, until you have enough experience to start making fewer mistakes and having more successes. If you had started photography when you were four and practiced every day, I'm sure you'd be incredible now.

Melissa said...

Thanks. I took a fascinating etymology course at UTM years ago, but gender wasn't something that came up. My friend Mariecel, who is married to a German and lives in Berlin, and I have been talking about differences in the languages the past couple of days. The reason that I have a problem with the plastic bag policy is that other large cities (i.e. San Francisco) have successfully banned bags, and Ontario seems to structure many of its policy changes around not pissing off businesses, which drives me crazy. As for the photography thing, I was just disappointed by a couple of rolls of film that I got back; I totally understand what you mean, which is why I'm going to try to take some classes in the fall. Can't get good if you don't know how!