depend on a third of this mess as being manly and masculine, the humiliating second thought will quickly remind him that in this respect he is no better off than any woman or cow in the land.
In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor of the language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife, (Weib,) is not,—which is unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex; she is neuter; so, according to the grammar, a fish is he, his scales are she, but a fishwife is neither. To describe a wife as sexless, may be called under-description; that is bad enough, but over-description is surely worse. A German speaks of an Englishman as the Englünder; to change the sex, he adds inn, and that stands for Englishwoman,—Englünderinn. That seems descriptive enough, but still it is not exact enough for a German; so he precedes the word with that article which indicates that the creature to follow is feminine, and writes it down thus: "die Englanderinn,"—which means "the she-Englishwoman." I consider that that person is over-described.
Well, after the student has learned the sex of a great number of nouns, he is still in a difficulty, because he finds it impossible to persuade his tongue to refer to things as "he" and "she," and "him" and "her," which it has been always accustomed to refer to as "it." When he even frames a German sentence in his mind, with the hims and hers in the right places, and then works up his courage to the utterance-point, it is no use,—the moment he begins to speak his tongue flies the track and all those labored males and females come out as "its." And even when he is reading German to himself, he always calls those things "it;" whereas he ought to read in this way:
Tale of the Fishwife and Its Sad Fate.
- I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and ancient English) fashion.