By Nick Olig
Having grown up in America, I realize I am biased in what I’m about to state, but here it is anyway: I’m still completely baffled by the way foreign languages have both masculine and feminine nouns. It remains a completely insane idea to me. In Spanish, for instance, the restaurant is a man but the library is a woman. What?! Who made the official ruling on that? And more importantly, why? It’s nonsense. Restaurants and libraries are places, not people.
The ultimate saving grace of our system of writing and speech is that we only have one way to say “the.” When you consider how much other languages over-complicate saying “the,” we have a wonderfully simple system. It’s realistic, too, because it’s kind of insane to constantly think of inanimate objects—lifeless things like shoes and spoons—as having male and female sex parts, and maybe I’m being too literal about it, but clearly, they don’t.
I’m sorry if that seems insensitive or xenophobic, and it should be noted that every once in a while I do act like a buffoon, but I have never heard a foreign language teacher (or anyone else) explain the need for masculine and feminine nouns in a convincing fashion. German, French, and Spanish should all drop at least one “The.” Ultimately, I think other languages just have a weird, lingering tradition of smooching and banging scissors and hammers together as though they are Barbie and Ken dolls.
That got me thinking—in as much as it made me paranoid. If, by some miracle, I’m wrong in my criticism of masculine and feminine nouns, then the inanimate objects inhabiting my very own apartment could secretly be experiencing self-aware, gender-influenced lives—just animals with a pulse, like us. For all I know, the pencils, lamps, notebooks, lighters, books, computer, and desk so familiar to me might become sentient and stage raging debates about gender equality and sexism when I leave my residence—kind of like Toy Story, but with a pencil, an oscillating fan, and a computer instead of Woody, Buzz and Bo Peep.
Let’s explore what would happen if that were the case. Only kidding! This actually happened.
After reheating some cold pizza in a toaster oven and devouring it, I depart my apartment and leave for work. To translate in Spanish, this means that I ate some pizza—which is feminine, mind you—left my manly apartment, and departed for my masculine job.
By the time I pushed through the effeminate door on my down the macho fire escape to my dude-reminiscent car, the inanimate object population of my apartment became abuzz. Everything I owned had an important meeting to conduct. My computer, a female, turned on and voiced an announcement.
“All things small and portable, gather in the living room for today’s debate…”
“What about me? I weigh 300 pounds and I can’t move!”
“We can hear you from the kitchen, Mrs. Refrigerator!” my computer snapped. “We can’t risk you coming here and scratching the linoleum floor. Ever hear of a security deposit, you buzzing old…”
Slinking toward the gathering of objects at the base of the masculine desk and the effeminate computer, my cozy wool blanket interjects.
“Ladies, please, let’s not bicker amongst ourselves. We’re in this together, remember?”
“Thank you, Miss Blanket,” my computer said. “You’re right. Now, in regard to today’s long-awaited debate on gender inequality, Mr. Pencil asked—no, DEMANDED to have opening remarks. So much for ladies first, I suppose. Your remarks, Mr. Pencil?”
“Woman, you might be due for a virus scan, if ya’ catch my drift.”
This boorish remark is met mostly by the jeers it deserves, though the radio and the desk, with their obvious machismo leanings, still voice their audacious approval.
“Only kidding, dames!” Mr. Pencil laughs sleazily. “Any-hoo, in all my years as a sliver of wood with a graphite-tip, I have never heard anything so ludicrous as the accusations of Mrs. Computer here that my brotherhood of inanimate objects and I are in any way, shape, or form sexist.”
Overhearing this, my dishwasher disagrees.
“You said my place was in the kitchen!” she accuses.
“Anyone think we should have a dishwasher installed in the living room?” my pencil asks in a facetious tone. “Does that make sense to anyone? No. OK, and mind your manners, Mrs. Dishwasher. That’s one topic done. You got any other bright ideas for complaints in that big, Pentium processor or whatever-the-hell-is that brain of yours?”
“You pig,” my computer says.
“Pigs are masculine, so thank you.”
“My other complaints include not just sexism but your overall bigotry,” my computer says. “Nick’s notebook and his oscillating fan can’t get married, even though they’re in love.”
“Mr. Fan blows my pages with LOVE!” my notebook declares.
“That is an abomination!” my pencil says. “Good lord, a notebook and a fan doing such a thing. Disgusting.”
“You’re just jealous because I don’t love you!” my notebook shouts at my pencil. “Nobody loves you, Mr. Pencil.”
“Why, that’s not true. On many occasions after dark, I have indeed found love by plunging myself into the pure and delectable hole of Mrs. Pencil Sharpener.”
A moment passes, one that escalates from shock to awkwardness to sheer delight among Mr. Pencil’s enemies.
“Pencil sharpener is a masculine noun,” my computer declares.
“Yeah,” my pencil sharpener says. “Dude, you didn’t know I was a dude? Seriously?”
My once-upright pencil nearly topples to the carpet but manages a slanted posture in his moment of trauma.
“Oh, sweet Lord, what have I done?!” my pencil shrieks.
But he regains his composure, reconsiders the many errors of his ways, and in no uncertain terms, he sees the light—literally, since Mrs. Lamp turns on when he poses dramatically in the direction of her bulb.
“I’ve been an insensitive fool all this time,” my pencil realizes. “Whether pencil, dishwasher, radio, or fat refrigerator, we should all be treated with the same respect and kindness. Heck, when you put our obvious sex-differences aside, inanimate objects like us are all pretty much alike. We’re all inhuman, ya’ know? Let this be a day of everlasting celebration in Nick’s apartment, for we the masculine and feminine nouns have finally learned to live together in perfect harm—”
“He’s home early!”
“How dare you interrupt me, Miss Light!”
“You can’t talk to her that way!” my blanket chastised.
The objects continued to argue and insult each other in this manner, right up to the moment I walked inside and saw the supernatural spectacle. After I explained to the toaster that I got Sunday mixed up with Monday again, I got the scoop on the dispute from my garbage can, my mind was obviously quite blown. I stroked my chin and wondered, “Should I do a story about this? Yes, and then a movie.”
All right, thanks for reading this buffoonery, and sorry for the abrupt conclusion, but before I get to the Inanimate Objects Story screenplay, I’m in a hurry to finish the first draft of my epic legal-drama Alien v. Predator: The Supreme Court Trial