Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun

Apr 21, 2011

Why is it that no matter how many madres are in a room, even if it’s thousands, when one padre enters, the collective noun for the group becomes padres? Or that the phrase “Que padre!” means “What a great father,” and “Me vale madre” means “It’s worthless?” Liza Bakewell asks these questions in her new book and examines sexism in the Spanish language and how it interacts with Mexican culture. She makes convincing arguments that the gender of Spanish nouns influences mental perceptions of the objects—which is ironic with masculine nouns like childbirth and pregnancy and is weighty with masculine nouns like love and marriage. Patt sits down with Bakewell to explore the evolution of the Spanish language.

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