Regarding the Oct. 28 WorldViews blog excerpt, “Is making French less sexist a threat to the language? The Académie Française says oui.”:
There is a rule of thumb that whenever somebody writes to complain about a grammatical mistake in an article, the letter is bound to contain at least one mistake of its own. A corollary of this rule is that when English speakers write about the Académie Française, one can count on not only a tone of amused supercilious detachment but also several incorrect statements about the French language and the role of the Académie.
The Académie does a lot of things, only one of which is to issue opinions on “correct” usage. Those opinions are simply opinions and are not taken too seriously by French speakers. In fact, contemporary French is shot full of Anglicisms, some dating back hundreds of years. All the romance languages and several Indo-European languages retain gender, some only natural gender (such as English) and others also grammatical gender (such as German).
This article was mainly about French struggles to de-sex natural gender — and we have exactly the same issue in English with words such as “chairman” and “aviatrix” — but the erroneous claim that the grammatical gender of “table” is masculine (it is feminine) taints the rest of this nonsense with the ridicule it deserves.
Jack Aubert, Falls Church