French Grammar: Should I say "Madame le juge" or "Madame la juge"?
From Polyglot Club WIKI
Feminization of titles and functions in France: Should we say "Madame LE Juge" or "Madame LA juge"?[edit | edit source]
You may have heard of recent debates in the National Assembly on the feminization of titles, such as "Président" or "Ministre" ("President" or "Minister").
Between those who affirm that we must feminize the functions and call a woman having the function of president "Madame la Présidente" and those who stipulate that these titles must always remain in the masculine gender, there is something to get lost in it. This is also the case when one has to address a judge.
Since 1635[edit | edit source]
The "Académie française" (the French Academy) is the institution responsible for defining the standards of the French language and for imposing a common standard in its use, since 1635. The Académie française is the authority on French. And what does the Academy say about the subject that interests us?
From 1935, the French Academy began a process of feminization of trades and functions. It was from that year that feminine versions of professions such as "postière" (postwoman), "artisane" (craftswoman), "avocate" (lawyer) or even "exploratrice" (explorer) appeared.
But the systematic feminization of professions and functions has its limits and is not generalized. Functions such as public offices or particular social roles, which have a status distinct from the one who carries them, must not be feminized. Although accessible to both men and women, here the function takes precedence over the person and his gender, and we must therefore maintain a neutrality in the name.
We must resolve to use the masculine, French does not have a neutral gender.
This rule applies for:
- Administration: Madame le Préfet (Madam Prefect), Madame le sous-préfet (Madam Sub-Prefect) BUT Madame l'ambassadrice (Madam Ambassador).
- National education: Madame le professeur (Madam Professor), Madame le recteur (Madam Rector) BUT the rest of the functions can be feminized: inspectrice, directrice, proviseure (Madam inspector, Madam director, Madam principal).
- The Military: Commandent, Général, Capitaine, Colonel, Lieutenant, Maréchal (Commander, General, Captain, Colonel, Lieutenant, Marshal).
- Politics: Madame le Président, Madame le secrétaire, Madame le Ministre, Madame le maire. (Madam President, Madam Secretary, Madam Minister, Madam Mayor).
- The Liberal Professions: Docteur (Doctor), Madame le procureur (Prosecutor), MADAME LE JUGE (Madam the JUDGE).
Since 1984[edit | edit source]
However, and since 1984, leftist governments have repeatedly worked for the feminization of titles and functions, against the recommendations of the French Academy. Several circulars advocating the feminine for the names of trades, functions, ranks and titles have been distributed within political and public bodies, although they do not have the force of law.
Faced with this desire coming from political bodies, the French Academy has decided not to take an authoritarian decision and to free the use of the feminization of titles.
Nowadays[edit | edit source]
We can therefore say both "Madame le juge" and "Madame la juge". The first version remaining the version validated by the French Academy, the second, without being incorrect, is still rejected by the purists of the language. Its use stems from a progressive, even feminist, will. You choose!