And how strange is that question? The World is The World, right?
Ever since 7th grade Spanish, I’ve known that some languages associate masculine and feminine with items that in English are not gendered. A chair is just an inanimate object in English, but in Spanish it is la silla (feminine) and in German it is der stuhl (masculine). Just reading those words, you can feel the difference. La silla feels like a silk brocade sofa, over-stuffed and opulent. Der stuhl sounds like something I would use to reach the glasses on a high shelf: functional, utilitarian, probably made out of sturdy wood.
This fascinating NY Times article looks at the impact of language on how we think about gender, spatial orientation, and even the causal reality of our world. It amazed me to find how different languages impact the way its speakers think, not so much constraining them to think in a certain way, but narrowing their focus, emphasizing one set of features over another. Spanish speakers will emphasize the “manly” features of (masculine) bridges such as strength, whereas Germans will think of (feminine) bridges as more slender or elegant. English speakers are probably just hoping to get across without having it collapse.
Being a writer, a crafter of words, all this makes me think about how English has a certain egalitarianism to it that I never appreciated before. I can make my bridges burly and strong or shapely and artistic, and my language does not constrain me one way or the other. I can make my work as Masculine or Feminine as I wish. Which makes me wonder if my gender impacts my writing…a subject I will tackle on Monday.
But in the meantime, do you write (or think) in a different language? How do you feel that impacts your writing in English?