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‘La’, not ‘le’: French Academy says COVID-19 is feminine

A representational image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  

Bread is masculine, beer feminine. In French, every noun has a gender, and that includes the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 is feminine— to be used with the article “la”, not “le”— according the official guardian of the French language, which has urged an end to the widespread practice in France of referring to it as masculine.

“The use of the feminine would be preferable,” the Academie Francaise said in a directive published on its website under the category “faulty use”.

“It is perhaps not too late to give this acronym back the gender it should have.”

The academy deplored the use of the masculine “le COVID-19” in the media and general conversation in France, saying the disease had wrongly been attributed the same gender as the germ that causes it: “le” coronavirus.

It explained that COVID was an acronym for coronavirus disease, and that in French, the core word in an acronym is what gives it its gender- in this case, disease, which is a feminine “la maladie” in the language of Moliere.

The World Health Organization has long referred to COVID-19 as “la”, and in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, government websites and the media use the feminine form.

The “Office quebecois de la langue francaise” also recommends its feminine use, and the Royal Spanish Academy has issued similar guidance, citing the same grammar rationale.

The academy opened the door to feminine versions of professions such as doctor and teacher last year.


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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 11:05:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/la-not-le-french-academy-says-covid-19-is-feminine/article31557722.ece

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