What gender is Covid-19?

The French Academy has been shocked — shocked, I tell you — that some people have actually been saying “le Covid 19” instead of “la Covid 19”.

The underlying issue is that maladie (“illness”) is feminine, but virus is masculine. So the French, in their infinite prescriptive wisdom, insist that you must pay attention to the fact that Covid-19 is the name of the disease, not the name of the virus (which, of course, is SARS-CoV-2 and clearly masculine). The disease/virus distinction is probably important — though not worth fighting over, in contrast to their respective genders.

There’s a moral in there somewhere.

Aren’t you glad you speak English?

Categories: Linguistics