🇫🇷 “le covid” or “la covid”- Which one do you prefer?

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Since the pandemic hit last year, many new words have appeared  in French — as well as in all languages. One of the difficulties for a  new word in French is how to pick its gender.  Whether to use the  masculine or the feminine for the word “covid” was at the center of such debates: “le covid” or “la covid“?

While many people were hesitant about this last year, the prestigious French council Académie Française announced that we should use the feminine “la” because it’s a disease — “la maladie.” However, a majority of people kept using  “le” because it’s a virus — “le virus.” Oh là là quel casse-tête!

I myself felt that “la covid” just didn’t feel right. In “covid,” we have the sound “vi” as in “le virus“. For example, “AIDS” is also masculine in French: “le sida“. Perhaps since the word “le vide”  (= the empty space, void) which also has a similar sound, is masculine, our ear is naturally used to the masculine. Furthermore, in French, “la  covid” sounds like a name of a party as in “la fête Covid“: “Tu vas à la Covid ce soir?” (= “Are you going to the Covid party tonight?”)  

While we were hearing both genders on the media and on the streets,  the Académie’s announcement caused a sense of guilt upon those using the  masculine “le covid“. However this year, the French dictionary Le petit Larousse made their decision and gave us their blessing: it will be both genders! Ouf ! We can say “le covid” now, without shame!

Le petit Larousse also  announced new entries for their 2022 edition, and this year was  highlighted with the most changes ever due to so many new words related  to one single phenomenon since the French Revolution. Some of the words were already in the dictionary, however they were rarely used. Importantly, most of these additions are  French words, not anglicismes!

For example:

  • asymptomatique (= asymptomatic)
  • la quatorzaine (= 14 days quarantine)
  • télétravailler (= to work from home)
  • un gel hydroalcoolique (= alcohol gel)
  • le déconfinement (= deconfinement), le reconfinement (= reconfinement)
  • les gestes barrières (= protective measures)
  • la distanciation sociale (= social distancing)

and many more…

Japanese language too has created many new expressions, so I will talk about them in a post soon.

With regard to the mixed gendering of words, Latin also has a noun that is used with both genders: “dies,” which  means “day.” It is used more frequently in the masculine gender, and it is thought that the feminine gender started to be used because of the  influence of the word  “nox” (= night) that is feminine, and with which it is frequently paired — for example in dies noctesque (= days and nights).

If you want to know more about how the Larousse selects their additions, check this French article: 

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