He, She or It

Came across an interesting piece of article on the gendered nouns. The article states that English as a language has been quite progressive and in more and more cases, the use of gender neutral “it” is replacing he or she. The article specifically mentions about ships and boats that were earlier referred to with feminine pronoun “she”, before it was substituted with “it” in English. However, in several languages like French and Spanish, the trend of assigning masculine or feminine genders to nouns is quite prevalent.

The above is an interesting piece as it to some extent attends to my curiosity of the change in the use of gender specific pronouns to gender neutral “it” lately. In my school and college days, countries, maritime transport, cars etc. were generally preceded with feminine pronoun, while several others used to be represented by masculine pronouns. Further living beings such as dog, Tom cat, cock , tiger were he and their female counterparts viz. bitch, pussy cat, hen and tigress were she unlike these days’ common usage of “it” obviating the need for determining the sex of the living beings!

Interestingly, while English has progressively evolved to using gender neutral pronoun and several other languages are making an attempt, our own Hindi does not provide this option. In Hindi the verb defining action of the noun is picked up depending on the noun’s gender. While in English we say, ” Pencil writes well. It lasts long”, in Hindi we will have to say, “Pencil accha likhti hai. Woh bahut chalti hai.” By using feminine verb forms, we make pencil a feminine noun. This, of course, is a matter of great inconvenience to non- Hindi speaking person, who constantly struggles with the task of assigning right gender to the noun. He or she is at loss when we laugh at him or her when he or she says, ” sabzi accha hai instead of acchi, paani thandi hai instead of thanda” etc and I can fill this blog up with many such instances, where non- Hindi speakers struggle with the task of using right gender for nouns representing things of daily use.

However, this dilemma is not restricted to non- Hindi speakers. We, so called proficient in Hindi, commonly use predefined genders in our daily conversations. A koyal (Cuckoo) is always surili (musically harmonious), saanp (snake) is zahreela (poisonous), makhi (fly) tang karti hai (nuisance), while a macchar (mosquito) kaatta hai(bites) etc, irrespective of whether koyal, saanp, macchar or makhi is he or she!

While I call upon linguists to work on the options to make Hindi simpler, we can never do away with this fully. Our beloved country will always remain Bharat Mata, beloved river Ganges, Ganga Maiya as also personification of the great Himalayas, Sun, Moon, Planets etc, which is inherent to our very culture.

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