Can "a Dane /a Pole /a Turk" refer to women?

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AndrasBP

Senior Member
Hungarian
Hello,

There are certain nationalities where there's a noun which is different from the adjective: Dane - Danish, Spaniard - Spanish, Pole - Polish, Turk - Turkish, etc.
Can the nouns be used when referring to women, too? If I say "my boss is a Dane", is it assumed I'm talking about a man? Does the phrase sound natural or should I opt for "my boss is Danish", in which case the gender is not clear, is it?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Actually, I think you’re right in feeling that a Dane, a German, an American, or whatever would instinctively be taken to mean a male unless you specified otherwise. (For me, that’s no big deal. For centuries we referred to the human race as “man”, but everyone knew the score.)

    However, if you said your boss was Danish, German, American, etc., that would instinctively be taken as gender-neutral. You wouldn’t automatically assume it was a woman, but you wouldn’t automatically assume it was a man either.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    By the way, I think nowadays people are more likely to express nationality with the adjective than with the noun,
    or possibly "my boss is from Denmark".
    Saying he's "a Dane" can imply that he's a typical Dane, and "you know how they all are".:confused:
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    What nationality is your boss?

    She's a Spaniard.
    She's a Pole.
    She's a Turk.

    I wouldn't use any of those for a female. For me they just aren't gender-inclusive nouns and sound unfriendly, bordering on hostile—though of course they are perfectly correct and anyone who wants to can use them.

    I would use: She's Spanish/Polish/Turkish.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think that the noun being different from the adjective is the point. Nor do I think that the nouns sound masculine. It's just that the normal way of replying is to use the adjective.

    "What nationality is your boss?"
    "American/English/Greek/Danish ..."

    If I had a reason to use the noun - an American/a Greek/a Dane - any gender-specific meaning would come from the context. Different for English, of course - an Englishman/Englishwoman - there's no single noun.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. It is the answer to such questions as "What is her nationality?"
    "She's Danish", Danish an adjective and is understood to describe only one attribute among which there will be many others.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. It is the answer to such questions as "What is her nationality?"
    "She's Danish", Danish an adjective and is understood to describe only one attribute among which there will be many others.
    So if someone says "I'm Danish" you don't understand it to mean that s/he is a citizen of Denmark? I certainly do.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Do you know, I have not the faintest idea how you arrived at thinking I might mean that. Could you explain?
    You said: In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. "She's Danish", Danish an adjective and is understood to describe only one attribute among which there will be many others.

    'Danish' doesn't define his/her nationality? S/he isn't a Danish national/Danish citizen ? It is merely an adjective?
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. It is the answer to such questions as "What is her nationality?"
    "She's Danish", Danish an adjective and is understood to describe only one attribute among which there will be many others.
    Do you know, Mr Q, I haven't the faintest idea what you mean:D

    She's a Dane ~ She's Danish; she's also an accountant, a volunteer firefighter, and a bit of a cow.
    She's Danish ~ She's a Dane; she's also good with numbers, rather handy at rescuing folk from burning barns, and not very nice to know.

    o_O
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    What part of "only one attribute among which there will be many others" are you having difficulty with? She may be tall, fat, angry, etc., among her other attributes. I really don't understand how anyone could understand "She is Danish" as meaning, "She is not Danish."

    In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. It is the answer to such questions as "What is her nationality?"
    It is the difference between a noun and the absolute use of the adjective.

    Does that help?
    Do you know, Mr Q, I haven't the faintest idea what you mean:D
    Well, that's quite understandable. :D but I was more concentrating on why london calling said
    So if someone says "I'm Danish" you don't understand it to mean that s/he is a citizen of Denmark?
    You perhaps don't understand that either.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Sorry, you were a bit quick - I added to #16 rather than create a new post: see above.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    What part of "only one attribute among which there will be many others" are you having difficulty with? She may be tall, fat, angry, etc., among her other attributes. I really don't understand how anyone could understand "She is Danish" as meaning, "She is not Danish."


    It is the difference between a noun and the absolute use of the adjective.

    Does that help?
    Well, that's quite understandable. :D but I was more concentrating on why london calling said
    You perhaps don't understand that either.
    Danish is an attribute, no question, but you inferred that it doesn't mean that s/he's a Danish national/citizen (and yes, I am perfectly well aware of the the difference between 'national' and 'citizen': I myself am a dual citizen).
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    'absolute use of an adjective'
    The poor, the rich, the sick, the Danish, etc. But thanks - it is a predicative use, isn't it? Not an absolute use. :oops:

    That said - a/the Dane(s) and Ø Danish have a difference: one is a definitive state the other is an attribute.
     
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    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I simply do not see that as a possible conclusion.
    In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. It is the answer to such questions as "What is her nationality?"
    "She's Danish", Danish an adjective and is understood to describe only one attribute among which there will be many others.
    If you did not mean that' Danish' does not mean a Danish nationa/citizen you should have said so specifically. All you say here is that 'Danish' is an adjective and only one of many attributes, hence inferring it is different from 'a Dane' and does not answer the question "What is her nationality?" which it does: if you asked me my nationality I would normally reply 'British'.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    All you say here is that 'Danish' is an adjective and only one of many attributes, hence inferring it is different from 'a Dane'
    Yes, that was my point - nouns are different from adjectives.
    does not answer the question "What is her nationality?" which it does: if you asked me my nationality I would normally reply 'British'.
    You may have taken too subjective a view here:
    I am perfectly well aware of the the difference between 'national' and 'citizen'
    As this is one of the most complex areas of law for the drafter, and the distinction between citizen and having citizenship is not always well understood, you are one of few who do. It must be a fact that, given 1,000 native speakers, maybe only one would be able to make that distinction clear.

    Such levels of precision, you may agree, are not really relevant to "my boss is a Dane".
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Such levels of precision, you may agree, are not really relevant to "my boss is a Dane".
    I was replying to this:

    London calling: So if someone says "I'm Danish" you don't understand it to mean that s/he is a citizen of Denmark?
    PaulQ: You perhaps don't understand that either.

    I meant I do understand what I mean when I say 'citizen of Denmark'. I am a British national/citizen and an Italian citizen: I am not an Italian national because I was not born in Italy. I have Italian citizenship because I married an Italian and applied for (and was given) Italian citizenship. If you ask me what my citizenship is I will say 'dual British/Italian'. I am however a British national.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In "She's a Dane" "Dane defines only and exclusively her nationality. It is the answer to such questions as "What is her nationality?"
    "She's Danish", Danish an adjective and is understood to describe only one attribute among which there will be many others.
    1. What has this to do with the question in the OP?
    2. What is the point in trying to discuss the difference between "She's Danish" and "She's a Dane" when they are merely two ways of saying the same thing in reply to a question about her nationality?
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Better then "She's Danish" (which I prefer)? Why do you think that?
    No, that's not what I meant. I was replying to Velisarius's post #7 where she said:
    She's a Spaniard.
    She's a Pole.
    She's a Turk.

    I wouldn't use any of those for a female. For me they just aren't gender-inclusive nouns
    I was saying I also feel that "She's a Spaniard" and "She's a Turk" don't sound very appropriate when used for a female. However I don't feel the same way about "She's a Dane". I have no specific reason for this.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I was saying I also feel that "She's a Spaniard" and "She's a Turk" don't sound very appropriate when used for a female.
    It think that this is the point with a nationality noun - it carries a cultural meme with it: the default is that it is masculine. This was almost invariably the case prior to about 1960. I think that perhaps your neutral Dane reflects a lack of historical context, and thus the meme, that Dane (a huge bearded man with an axe) conjures up for me subconsciously and which "Londoner" does not - no gender implication.
    What has it to do with "which one sounds better"?
    The above may help.
    This idea of subconsciously associating a noun that refers to a human as being a male human is still quite strong, although fading. The adjective, as adjectives are only attributes does not have this connotation.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    My father's best friend's wife was a Dane. I never regarded her as being a huge bearded man with an axe. The historical association for hairy big axemen was, I believe, "Viking", not "Dane". (And yes, I am well aware of where the Vikings came from - Norway, Sweden and Denmark - and of the "Danegeld".) I still don't understand what point you were trying to make in your post about nouns and adjectives.

    My preference for "She is Danish" has nothing to do with historical stereotypes. It just seems to me, as I already said, that the usual construction for any nationality is to use the adjective, whether or not the noun and the adjective are the same.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    My father's best friend's wife was a Dane. I never regarded her as being a huge bearded man with an axe.
    The fallacy here is that you are quoting a specific instance and I am making a generalisation. Compare "All dogs have four legs." "Mine doesn't, it lost one on an accident." Both statements are true; one does not contradict the other.
    My preference for "She is Danish" has nothing to do with historical stereotypes. It just seems to me,
    It might be interesting to consider why "it seems to you." :)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I doubt it. My experience is that the normal usage is the adjective. I seem not to be alone.
    What nationality is your boss?

    She's a Spaniard.
    She's a Pole.
    She's a Turk.

    I wouldn't use any of those for a female. For me they just aren't gender-inclusive nouns and sound unfriendly, bordering on hostile—though of course they are perfectly correct and anyone who wants to can use them.

    I would use: She's Spanish/Polish/Turkish.
    although I don't agree with all of the reasoning
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Thank you very much for your replies. What a stir I've caused!:eek:

    Andras, has your question been answered? It really opened a can of worms.
    Yes, I guess it's (more or less) clear now. For a non-native speaker like me, it's probably best to avoid the nationality nouns, just to be on the safe side.
    I really didn't expect my question to open a can of worms! (I knew the expression, but thanks for the link.)

    Saying he's "a Dane" can imply that he's a typical Dane, and "you know how they all are".:confused:
    Is it a bit like "He's a Jew" vs. "He's Jewish"? I've been told to avoid the former.
     
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