Grammar Tips (#14): Gender in tech words and the Internet

English learners of Portuguese or other languages with grammatical genders tend to struggle when trying to associate words with a certain gender; in the field of technology, where new words are created with the flow of tech advances and trends, it may be ever harder to figure these things out unless you’re keeping up with said trends (a good EP dictionary always come in handy).

This post serves mainly as a way for you to get acquainted with some rules that exist regarding the gender of tech products.

#1: Names of apps and websites without any Portuguese words are almost always masculine.

That yields o Facebook, o Twitter, o Miniclip, o Agar.io, o Instagram, o Pinterest, o Tumblr, o Youtube, o Duolingo, o WhatsApp, o Flickr, o Imgur, o Vimeo, o Snapchat, o Tinder, o Grindr, o AVG, o Google [website and all Google products], o WordPress, o Mozilla Firefox, o Linux, o Unix, o Android, o Gmail, o iTunes, o iPhone [and so on], o Macbook, o Windows, o Acrobat, o Skype, o Buzzfeed, and, last but not least, o The EP Experience (:

In cases where there a Portuguese version of the product or it containts a component that translates or is associated metonymically to a recognizable Portuguese feminine word, the word is feminine. For example, a Wikipédia (from [a] enciclopédia, encyclopedia); a App Store (since we associate store with [a] lojastore).

#2: There are a few words related to the word of tech who are feminine in gender.

For example, [a] app is feminine, being short (via globalized English) for [a] aplicação; other examples include [a] Internet[a] web, and [a] selfie.

#3: Names of full-blown tech companies are almost always feminine.

For example, [a] Apple[a] Microsoft[a] Hewlett Packard [HP]. The feminine gender is the preferred gender for companies in general – vd. [a] BP (oil), [a] Enron[a] Samsung[a] Petrobras[a] EDP, [a] Renault – because the Portuguese word for company is feminine[a] empresa; conversely, the words for website – [o] sítio[o] site – and program – [o] programa – are masculine, which goes a long way towards explaining why Portuguese chooses genders for these words the way it does.

This is relevant since you need to pay attention to the articles when you’re talking about the company or any of its products; for example, a Google is the whole company, while [o] Google is assumed to be the search engine [1]; meanwhile a Microsoft is the company that manufactures o Microsoft Office, among other products.

This rule doesn’t extend to newer start-ups and companies, especially if they provide only one service and the idea of “company” is usually subsumed by the service they provide. For example, o Facebook and o Twitter is used for both the website and the company, but o Uber is the app while a Uber is the company.

All of this to say that these “rules” sometimes are not rules at all; there is a strong component of custom (in the sense of tradition reiterated by common and constant usage) in how genders are used, in tech and throughout the Portuguese language; the gender of a new word becomes “the gender that people started using and that is replicated by everyone else”; this usually follows grammatical processes such as the ones described above, but it’s important to keep an eye out for any possible quirks in the system (:

However, [a] app is feminine, being short (via globalized English) for [a] aplicação; also, [a] Internet[a] web[a] selfie

#4: Some situations may not ask for the article at all.

It should be noted that some verbs may not ask for the article at all – for example, jogar (“to play”) can be followed directly by the name of the game/app one plays on; if you’re playing a game that’s hosted on a bigger website or in a device, you do have to use “jogar em + article + name of that website/device”:

  • Quando chegares, vamos jogar Angry Birds no Facebook.
  • Estava a jogar Metal Kombat na minha X-Box quando chegaste.

 

 

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One thought on “Grammar Tips (#14): Gender in tech words and the Internet

  1. edmeyr June 13, 2016 / 3:16 pm

    So fascinating!! Really. Luís, did you deactivate your DL account? :(

    Like

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