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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Covid-19 is officially feminine, say French language guardians

Scientists still don't know many things about the new Covid-19 virus but now one thing is certain - in French, the virus is feminine.

Covid-19 is officially feminine, say French language guardians
The Academie française has spoken. Photo: AFP

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.

This is despite the fact that the umbrella term for the virus type – coronavirus – is masculine in French.

“The use of the feminine for Covid-19 would be preferable,” the Academie Francaise said in a directive published on its website under the category “faulty use”.

READ ALSO The 22 French words we've learned during lockdown

“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 Organisation 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 members of the French academy are mostly elderly men who wear an ornate uniform and a sword and are known as the immortals.

Only last year did the notoriously conservative academy open the door to feminine versions of professions such as doctor and teacher.
 

Member comments

  1. Don’t these “people” realise that a language is a living thing and is always changing and evolving? These so called academics are holding France back internationally but at least the young are trying to change things. This academy is like Canute trying to hold back the tide of change.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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