Friday, June 12, 2009

How to say "computer" in Spanish

The other day I received this email:

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

'House' for instance, is feminine: 'la casa.'
'Pencil,' however, is masculine: 'el lapiz.'

A student asked, 'What gender is 'computer'?'

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether computer' should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.
Now, I don't appreciate jokes like this because they're really stilted towards one side or another, depending on who's telling it. As you can probably tell, the sender of this joke was a woman.
The men's group decided that 'computer' should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computadora'), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ('el computador'), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The women won.

Send this to all the smart women you know...and all the men that have a sense of humor.

See? I could have swapped the descriptions and just as easily have said that the men won. And point number 4 of the second set applies just as easily to both men and women. Either way, it's just stereotypically sexist.

Yes, yes, I am overanalyzing this joke, but only because I don't think it's particularly funny. Worth a chuckle, maybe, but nothing more.

As the upside to all this, it did prompt me to look for the Spanish translation for "computer". Apparently, the generally accepted form is "la computadora", and it's in use in all Latin American countries except Colombia, where it is "el computador."

In Spain, though, it is "el ordenador."

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