LINGUIST List 2.483

Mon 09 Sep 1991

Disc: Professeure

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Directory

  1. "Michael Kac", Re: Professeure/470
  2. "Michael Kac", Masculine terms applied to females
  3. Jacques Guy, ProfesseurE
  4. Jacques Guy, Professeure
  5. Patrick Drouin, Re: 2.481 Responses: French, in case

Message 1: Re: Professeure/470

Date: Sun, 8 Sep 91 16:56:11 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: Professeure/470
A purely linguistic question about *professeure*: why isn't it
*professeuse*, on analogy to *chanteuse*, *masseuse*, etc.?
I would be interested in knowing what native French speakers in all
countries where the language is spoken have to say about *doctoresse*
'female physician'. It is in my Larousse dictionary but I can remember
being told by someone many years ago that it was not good French. The
discussion of *professeur* brought it back to mind.
An etymological question: My recollection is that it was at least once
the practice in France to use *professeur* to refer to a teacher in a
lyce'e. Is that still true? And if so, how does one handle talking about
female teachers in such establishments?
I had a year of public education in Geneva, where the word for a teacher,
at least at the grade school level, was *maitre* or *maitresse* depending
on sex. Is this still so?
Finally: how do English speakers feel about the gender of *professor*? To
me it's gender-neutral, but we have pairs like *actor/actress*; back in
the days when people flew planes were called aviators (if male), the term
*aviatrix* was used to describe people like Amelia Earhart. And one used
to hear *authoress* from time to time. It might be interesting to take a
systematic look at some of this.
Michael Kac
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Message 2: Masculine terms applied to females

Date: Sun, 8 Sep 91 17:30:33 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Masculine terms applied to females
A net subscriber (whose name I've lost, forgive me please) notes that
the current Prime Minister of France is addressed as Madame le Ministre.
In English up until fairly recently -- at least in the U.S. -- the term
Chairman was applied to persons of both sexes and the appropriate way in
a formal meeting to address a female holder of this office was *Madame
Chairman*.
Michael Kac
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Message 3: ProfesseurE

Date: Mon, 9 Sep 91 11:43:49 EST
From: Jacques Guy <j.guytrl.oz.au>
Subject: ProfesseurE
Neologisms such as "la professeure" strike me not only as against the
grain of the language (since the general pattern is -eur/-euse, less
frequently -eur/-rice), but above all as an ill-advised borrowing from
English. For the correlation between grammatical gender and sex is
extremely poor for animate referents in French. ("Sex for *inanimate*
referents?" I can hear you scream. Eh, eh, what about: le cadavre, la
charogne. And how about "la bitte" et "le con", hm?). It seems better for
human referents, as long as you don't look too close: vigie, sentinelle,
estafette, ordonnance. If at least we want to indulge in that farce, let us
then go the whole hog, but along existing patterns. I propose:
 Female Male
 la vigie le vigien (model: Felicie, Felicien)
 la sentinelle le sentineau
 l'estafette l'estafet
 l'ordonnance l'ordonnanc (model: la France, le franc)
And let us not forget nos amies les betes:
 l'antilope l'antilaud (model: salope, salaud)
 la hyene le hyen
and names (mostly animal) for calling people names:
 la teigne le teing
 la charogne le charoing (model: pogne, poing)
Incidentally, "les cognes" has always felt feminine to me (probably parce
que les cognes, c'est la rousse, c'est les vaches). How about, then, adding
to "flic" and "fliquette":
 la cogne le coing
La rousse, a ce compte-la, ca devient "le cognassier".
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Message 4: Professeure

Date: Tue, 10 Sep 91 09:39:02 EST
From: Jacques Guy <j.guytrl.oz.au>
Subject: Professeure
Neologisms such as "la professeure" are strange, nay,
foreign.
First, "professeure" goes straight again the grain of the
language, for the general patterns are -eur/-euse (danseur,
danseuse), -eur/-oresse (docteur, doctoresse), and
-eur/-rice (acteur, actrice).
Second, it is based on a fundamental misapprehension of
what gender conveys in French, a mishapprehension imported
wholesale from English. For the correlation between
grammatical gender and sex is extremely poor for animate
referents in French. ("Sex for *inanimate* referents?" I
can hear you scream. Eh, eh, what about: le cadavre, la
charogne, la bitte (or, if you want to be proper, la verge),
et le con (ou le callibistri) hm?). Correlation seems better
for human referents, but don't look too close: vigie,
sentinelle, estafette, ordonnance.
If some wish to indulge in that exercise, so be it. But let
them go the whole hog, and not butcher the language in the
process. So here:
 Female Male
 la vigie le vigien (model: Felicie, Felicien)
 la sentinelle le sentineau
 l'estafette l'estafet
 l'ordonnance l'ordonnanc (model: la France, le franc)
A farce, but let's push on regardless. "Les cognes", that's
feminine comme "les vaches", isn't it? Bad, bad, bad. What
we want is:
 Female Male
 la vache le vac (model: blanche, blanc)
 la cogne le coing (model: la pogne, le poing)
>From which we shall derive this lovely word: le cognassier
(police station).
Now, having at long last catered for men's lib, let us not
forget animal liberationists. Allow me to fire the first
shots:
 Female Male
 la hyene le hyen
 l'antilope l'antilaud (model: salope, salaud)
A votre tour maintenant.
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Message 5: Re: 2.481 Responses: French, in case

Date: Mon, 09 Sep 91 21:36:39 HAE
From: Patrick Drouin <PADROUIN%LAVALVM1pucc.PRINCETON.EDU>
Subject: Re: 2.481 Responses: French, in case
 I wrote about a week ago that the word "professeurE" did appear in the
documents produced by the SPUL at Laval. This isn't totally acurate since
it still hasn't been written in the *final* version of the documents.
 I was told that the formulation "professeur/e" has made its way to the
draft version of the documents but it still has to be approved by the SPUL
for the final version.
Patrick Drouin
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