Daily US Times: People of France have faced an énigme for months. Was Covid-19- the new coronavirus which caused enormous sufferings to the world, masculine or feminine?
Grammatically speaking, that is. In practical terms, should the French use a “le” or a “la” before the disease’s name?
Now, the group charged with preserving the French language has spoken. The Académie Française decided that Covid-19 is assuredly feminine, although its increasingly common usage with the masculine article.
The group os a french institution that upholds the French language by protecting it against things like anglicisms or other perceived threats. To decide the gender of Covid-19, their work relies in part on sorting out nouns by gender, a grammatical construction common in many Romance languages.
An example of the group’s work: Though many French people commonly use the phrase “le weekend” to refer to, well, the weekend, the Academie encourages the public to use “le fin de semaine,” literally meaning “the end of the week,” in an effort to keep English out of the language. It’s an act of preservation.
The Académie Française is made up of 40 select members and doesn’t exactly dictate the way the general public talks. But this month, the group has put their foot down.
They say, it’s not “le Covid-19,” it’s “la Covid-19” — using a feminine article.
Are you wondering why the group came up to this conclusion? well, they explain it like this.
When it comes to abbreviations or acronyms, the gender of the word is determined by whatever word constitutes the core of the abbreviation.
The used CIA for example- which takes the feminine article, la CIA.
But what is the reason behind it? “Agence centrale de renseignement”, this is what CIA stands for in France, because “agence” (agency, in English) has a feminine gender, the acronym of CIA is also feminine, hence “la CIA.” Another example is FBI. In French, it is called “Bureau fédéral d’enquête”. Here “bureau” is masculine. So, you’re supposed to say “le FBI” because “le” is masculine.
Here is where Covid-19 gender comes in. Covid stands for coronavirus diseas and in France, according to the academy that translates into “maladie provoquée par le coronavirus” — which in English means, “the disease caused by the coronavirus.”
The academy said: “Maladie” is a feminine word so it uses the feminine article ‘la’: hence “la maladie.” Therefore, it should be “la Covid-19”.