If cities have sexes, do languages have personalities?

 

As Angela Carter said, “Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.”

Is it about the people? Not according to John Berger. “Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography.  Rome is feminine.  So is Odessa.  London is a teenager, an urchin, and this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens.  Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”

Do we as a people reflect the character of our native tongues? If Stephen Fry’s portrayal of the English language is accurate, we’ve nothing to be proud of. “The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane. Each sentence we produce, whether we know it or not, is a mongrel mouthful of Chaucerian, Shakespearean, Miltonic, Johnsonian, Dickensian and American. Military, naval, legal, corporate, criminal, jazz, rap and ghetto discourses are mingled at every turn. The French language, like Paris, has attempted, through its Academy, to retain its purity, to fight the advancing tides of Franglais and international prefabrication. English, by comparison, is a shameless whore.”

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