My mind, my thoughts, my words

Why machines are feminine

Ever noticed that apparently machines are feminine?

The car… she?

The bike… she?

In languages that have different gender categories such as German, French, and Spanish, the gender of stuff depends on the thing’s grammatical gender (e.g. das Auto – es (neuter), die Flasche – sie (feminine), le velo – il (masculine), la silla – ella (feminine)). English does not have grammatical gender (Old English did, and some remnants of a gender system exist). So why do people often refer to certain things as if they were animate instead of just using the ‘genderless’ pronoun it?

Firstly note that people mostly stick to the fact that objects in English are generally neuter (the plant – it, the table – it...). Only machines (ships, cars, computers…) and things that can ‘contain’ people (again vehicles, as well as countries and oceans…) seem to be made ‘alive’ quite frequently. Referring to objects as she is an optional figure of speech – which is, however, declining (manuals, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, advise against its usage). But why female? Here some of my theories… (I couldn’t find anything informative online – if you know, do comment)

It could be that in the past predominantly men developed and used machines. Perhaps they feminised machines because hey liked them as much as their women. Or, referring to them as gals might also have made them handle them more carefully, so the delicate things wouldn’t be treated like a male buddy and be broken due to too strong grips or what not. Or, as someone in a forum put it:

The reason machines are named after woman is just when you think you have them figured out they do something different. Besides, what else could be so powerful and unpredictable. (Larry)

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