I've always found it difficult to grasp the whole gender thing in the French language. I mean a chair is a chair, it's not feminine nor masculine, but one day, some French person decided that a chair is female and voila, la chaise was born. A knife, however, is masculine, according to the French, and that is why we say un couteau. I say show me the penis on a knife and then I will accept that it is male. No dinkle, not male.
I have other problems concerning the genders of objects, like the fact that I have an odd compassion for anything called he or she. This becomes particularly tricky when, for example, FP calls a spider 'she'. Strictly speaking a house spider is not an object, but unless you have a microscope or you are a genius who specialises in creepy crawlies, no one knows whether they are male or female anyway.
The other evening we were both standing in the living room looking at the spider in the corner of the room. He held a glass in one hand and a fly swatter in the other while I cowered behind him, holding tightly onto his shirt in sheer terror, my knuckles turning white.
"Kill it!" I hissed at him. We'd been standing staring at the creature for the past ten minutes, arguing back and forth over how to deal with it. He wanted to catch it in the glass and put it outside (the big softy) and I wanted it squished. I gave him a nudge forward and indicated the fly swatter in his hand.
"Kill. It." I repeated, this time more forcefully. With the vibration if FP's footstep on the parquet, the spider tensed, ready to run. My heart started racing like...like a racehorse (it's a bad simile but I'm tired and my brain can't find anything else that races) and I tensed too, ready to flee from the room.
"But she's only small," FP said, "and she's scared."
My heart melted. "Aw no," I said, shaking my head, "no, don't do that."
He turned to look at me. "Don't do what?"
"Don't call it a she. That's a spider, it's an it, not a she." He laughed at me. "You can't just give a spider a gender," I continued. "That changes the whole situation!"
FP raised an eyebrow. "How so?"
"Because if you say it's a girl then I feel a bond between us. Sisterhood and all that. It's almost as bad as giving her a name."
"You just called it a 'her'." He stated, amused.
"Yes," I hung my head, "yes, I did."
"You still want me to kill her?"
"No." I whispered.
And that was that. Just like that, FP had won the fight. The spider was saved, and I named her Priscilla. But you see, this is the difficulty with the French language, when everything has a gender, I am destined to forever have sympathy and compassion for inanimate objects such as staplers and doorknobs and tables. And spiders.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008