Saturday, August 06, 2005

Cyborthography and gender; misc; poetry.

a. Something I've been meaning to post for a while: a listserv note from UAZ graduate student Jaime Parchment, with an observation about typographical conventions for getting around grammatical gender when it would tend to have an unwanted semantic-gender implication, in Spanish. Jaime wrote:
I recently ran across something that I imagine will be of interest to somebody out there. On several web-pages from Spain, I noticed that the symbol "@" is used to replace "o" and "a" in order to avoid specifying gender. For example, a reference to "the students" would be written as "l@s alumn@s", which can be read as either "los alumnos" or "las alumnas". Interesting solution, I think.
I think so too. Is this unique to Spain Spanish? To Spanish? Has anyone noticed other Romance-language web pages doing anything similar?

Update: Check out the followup at polyglot conspiracy! Not restricted to Spanish, it seems...

b. PSA: All you (n)ever wanted to know about 'intelligent design', courtesy of Kai von Fintel.

c. Via a fairly bizarre series of now seemingly unreplicatable web steps involving googling Norvin Richards' dissertation title ("What moves where when in which language") without quotes, I ran across some poetry I liked, by a poet named Tad Richards, of whom I had not previously heard. (He's got some other poetry I don't care for as much, but heck, what poet doesn't?) Here's one that made me smile, "Selling Secrets;" here's another one I found poignant, "Story" (worth clicking the realaudio link to hear him read it aloud).

d. Then linking around from various Tad Richards pages, I found out about this piece of lifetime artwork, Opus 40, of which I also had not previously heard. I hope to stop in there soon during an upcoming road trip. I'll let you know if I liked it.

e. And finally, since poetry leads to more poetry, here's a poem I then ran across by Stevie Smith, who I first met in the hilarious (!) 'Tenuous and Precarious," but who I have since been happy to find wrote lots of others that are great too (see, e.g., "Our bog is dood," and "My heart was full.") This one, it seems, is quite famous, though I didn't know it.

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

7 Comments:

Blogger polyglot conspiracy said...

Re: "l@s al@mnas," I searched for some stuff in Italian, and found this same thing, plus the asterisk filling in the same function. Hate to be self-referring, but see results here. Thanks for the tip-off on this! Very interesting indeed.

9:38 AM  
Blogger polyglot conspiracy said...

Whoops. I meant "l@s alumn@s."

11:45 AM  
Blogger Luis said...

Re: @ - In fact, this is something that has come up only very recently, as part of the political correctness issue. In Spanish, it is possible to use the masculine to refer to a mixed group -i.e., "los alumnos"(the students-masc) can mean either a group of solely male students or a group of male and female students, whereas "las alumnas" (the students-fem) can mean only a group of female students.
Now, since in actual speech you can't use @, some people (especially politicians) have started using conjoined phrases instead, i.e., "los alumnos & las alumnas", which is admittedly grammatical, but a stylistic suicide. It has even become a major feature in jokes about politicians.
Just my two cents :)

1:42 AM  
Blogger trevor@k'alebeul said...

With apologies for self-promotion, here's a post about the Catalan government, which wants to go even further than the "los alumnos y las alumnas" hack and refer to kiddos as "those who attend school".

2:43 AM  
Blogger Tad Richards said...

I'm glad you liked a few of them.

Tad

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Jack Hardy said...

I've noticed this in Mexican written Spanish since I've been here. So, not just a Spain thing. I see it (or hear the differentiation) usually in academic settings.

Specific groups also prefer to be named separately. . . there's an organization of teachers whose acronym includes two M's. . . for maestros y maestras.

I have also seen it used in derrogatory words. In Mexican spanish, a word for "f*g" is "joto" but to put the feminine marker (jota) on it is also very common, especially in exclusively gay circles of friends. Since being here I have seen "jot@" used in text messages, chats, and IMs. Kind of like a middle ground, I guess. (see also put@, pendej@)

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In German it's perfectly ok for a woman to say 'Ich bin ein Mensch" as a female character says in one of Fassbinder's films [Veronika Voss]. The German word for man is just Mann. 'Mensch' means human being. So I've heard.

8:35 PM  

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