Language development & the future

Masculine vs Feminine: Is it a bit outdated?

Learning a language is quite different from learning any other subject, it doesn’t contain the clear logic that mathematics does, it doesn’t have the same cause and effect ideologies that we discover when studying geography and history. The language we use, no matter what our native tongue is, has developed over millions of years from nothing more than a few noises and hand gestures to what is today a complex system of words, grammatical structures, intonation, inferred meaning as well as a wealth of other subtleties. As people develop and change, society and culture changes too, and consequently so does the language. The difficulty is that they don’t all change at the same time and sometimes they don’t even change at all. One clear example is the use of words such as ‘purse’ and ‘wallet’ which in French are ‘portemonnaie’ and ‘portefeuille’. These two simple items that we use every day and probably don’t ask why there are two different words for what is essentially the same thing, an item for carrying our money around safely. In years gone by when the world was a much more macho place than it is now, before the days of the suffragettes men were the ones who did the work and were in charge of the money. As we know the higher valued monetary device is the dollar bill or the pound note, and the smaller ones are coins such as the pound coin, the fifty pence piece or the quarter. At that time in our cultural history women were not considered important enough to carry the higher valued notes only the smaller less important coins so they only needed a small bag to keep them in. As we can see from the French word, portemonnaie translated crudely into English means ‘coin carrier', whereas the portefeuille would mean something akin ’note carrier' or bills of you are not British. In today's society we are looking at moving towards a much more balanced and healthy distribution of power with equality being one of the words we hear repeatedly. Understanding that we need to make sure everyone whether they are male or female deserves the same opportunities and the same rewards for the same effort. Society and culture changes and adapts to its surroundings to be able to get the best out of every situation, without losing its identity or history. Language is a measure of how quickly we are changing, so perhaps sometime in the future we will stop using words such as purse and wallet, which show the inequalities that existed in the past yet we continue to keep them in the present with the language we use. Perhaps the virtual payment systems that exist will help us move towards more gender equality in the future. Who knows?
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