samedi 3 juillet 2010

He's a she

Thanks to Anijo I now know (until my neurons evaporate) that the United States is a singular subject which must then be conjugated accordingly.

This leads us to a typically Sunday light topic: What is the gender of the 50 American States in French or other European languages?

A quick look at Wiki and we come back with the following result: 8 of the 50 American states are considered feminine in gender (in French) regarding their names and the way they must be conjugated.

Carolina (North and South)

Suffice to look at the last letter of each one and you can't be mistaken that the a ending is indicative of a Latin root. Which doesn't explain much since 12 other States also end with an a.

Dakota (north and south)

Hmmmm… looks like I need a linguist's expertise here since many names have their roots in the native's own names for their territories. Maybe did the colonists adapt the original Indian names to a more European educated-sounding tune. 

Another wild guess : Save for Pennsylvania, all these names are girl first names in French (Virginie, Caroline, Louis/Louise) or Spanish.

My attention was called upon this rather unimportant matter a dozen years ago about California since that was, at the time, the only State that came to my mind as being feminine in French. The answer I got then was referring to a Spanish novel and I left it to it.

But here you'll find a much comprehensive article regarding the origin of the name California.

I suppose you'll find similar articles on Wiki a propos all American States whether they bear a "feminine" name or not.

I haven't furthered the research in German, Polish or Italian but hey, today is Sunday…

Anyway, New Mexico is masculine be it in French or Spanish. Le nouveau Mexique, el Nuevo Mexico.

7 commentaires:

Anijo a dit…

J'ai cru qu'on était le samedi et non pas le dimanche... ;)

States With Indian Names"

Alabama - Thicket Clearers
Alaska - Great Land
Arizona - Silver Slabs
Arkansas - Down Stream People
Connecticut - Upon The Long River
Dakota - Related People
Idaho - Sunrise, It Is Morning
Illinois - Men Or Great Men
Indiana - Land Of The Indians
Iowa - Drowsy People
Kansas - People Of The South Wind
Kentucky - Hunting Ground
Massachusetts - Great Hill
Michigan - Great Water
Minnesota - Sky Tinted Water
Mississippi - Father Of Water
Missouri - Long Canoe People
Nebraska - Flat Water
New Mexico - Aztec God Mexitili
Ohio - Beautiful Valley
Oklahoma - Land Of The Red Man
Oregon - Beautiful Water
Tennessee - From Chief Tannassie
Texas - Tejas Or Allies
Utah Those - Who Dwell High Up
Wisconsin - Where Waters Gather
Wyoming - Great Plain

Anijo a dit…

More interesting details here

Illinois: From the Indian word "ilhiniwek" or "illiniwek". "Illini" meant "man" and the ending made the word plural. The French changed the word to illinois.

Connecticut: From the Indian expression "quinnitukg-ut", meaning "at the long tidal river."

Michigan: Chippewa - "Michigama" meaning "Large lake" or "big water

Wisconsin: "Wishkonsing" -- place of the beaver.

Anijo a dit…

Arkansas comes from both Indian and French.


The French called the Quapaw the “Arkansas,” the Illini word for “People of the South Wind” and so named the river and the countryside after them


The Quapaws were close allies of the French in colonial Louisiana. During the subsequent Spanish regime, the Quapaws helped defend the colony from invasion by Indians allied with the English. The Quapaws tried to maintain their policy of peaceful coexistence when the United States purchased the Louisiana territory in 1803, but they were forced to surrender their Arkansas lands to the U.S. government in 1818 and 1824. A Quapaw reservation was established in 1839 in northeastern Oklahoma. Today, there are about 2,000 Quapaws, most of whom live near Miami, Oklahoma.

Many place names in our state, including Arkansas, are French pronunciations of Indian words.

At the time of the early French exploration, a tribe of Indians, the Quapaws, lived west of the Mississippi and north of the Arkansas River. The Quapaws, or OO-GAQ-PA, were also known as the downstream people, or UGAKHOPAG. The Algonkian-speaking Indians of the Ohio Valley called them the Arkansas, or "south wind."

The state's name has been spelled several ways throughout history. In Marquette and Joliet's "Journal of 1673", the Indian name is spelled AKANSEA. In LaSalle's map a few years later, it's spelled ACANSA. A map based on the journey of La Harpe in 1718-1722 refers to the river as the ARKANSAS and to the Indians as LES AKANSAS. In about 1811, Captain Zebulon Pike, a noted explorer, spelled it ARKANSAW.

During the early days of statehood, Arkansas' two U.S. Senators were divided on the spelling and pronunciation. One was always introduced as the senator from "ARkanSAW" and the other as the senator from "Ar-KANSAS." In 1881, the state's General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the state's name should be spelled "Arkansas" but pronounced "Arkansaw."

The pronunciation preserves the memory of the Indians who were the original inhabitants of our state, while the spelling clearly dictates the nationality of the French adventurers who first

Flocon a dit…

Merci pour les liens Anijo, they're very informative.

Il est très significatif que tous ces noms indiens se rapportent à la nature, monts, forêts, rivières, soleil etc.

I particularly like the Sky tinted water. C'est joli ça.

De même pour le Nouveau Mexique. I had no idea it originally referred to an Ancient Mexican God which of course makes sense.

C'est comme une cosmogonie qui rappelle combien les Indiens étaient en communion avec la Nature.

Quel choc et quelle catastrophe pour eux quand les blancs sont arrivés, eux qui avaient perdu le contact quasi charnel with Mother Nature.

Ça ne s'est pas arrangé depuis...

Anijo a dit…

eux qui avaient perdu le contact quasi charnel with Mother Nature.

You have a beautiful heart and soft understanding of life Flocon. Merci

Ned Ludd a dit…

It's surprising that Rhode Island is not feminine in French, or plural, as the full name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Flocon a dit…


Effectivement Le Rhodes Island devrait être féminin si le nom avait été traduit. Mais l'Île de Rhodes fait immédiatement penser à l'île grecque...

On s'en tient donc à l'État de Rhodes Island j'imagine, pour éviter la confusion.

Je n'en sais trop rien.

En va-t-il de même en italien, espagnol, allemand et toutes les langues qui font la distinction féminin/masculin?