"Éditeur extraordinaire" ou "éditrice extraordinaire"

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I want to dedicate a book to a female editor and decided to refer to her in French as "éditeur extraordinaire",  but then had second thoughts because I was afraid I might have the gender wrong.  On the other hand, I was concerned that "éditrice" might have the same sort of connotations as "poetess" or "authoress" in English.   So I asked a number of French friends and American colleagues with native French fluency who have lived in France for many years what they thought it should be.  Here are the results:

It should be éditrice extraordinaire.

You can turn it into éditrice, though I don't think I've ever seen it. Personally, I would stick with what you sent me.

You should use “éditrice,” and the adjective has the same form in either gender.

As of 2010, this forum discussion indicated a preference for éditrice.

Poetess strikes me as poetic, éditrice as quite ugly, frankly. I would avoid it.

Eiren Shea expressed herself at greater length:

I am told that there is a movement towards making professions gender neutral, and so éditeur would be fine for a female editor. You usually see éditrice in the female form for something like "publishing house", i.e., maison éditrice. In fact, the term "éditeur / éditrice" is often used for a publisher rather than an editor.  "Rédacteur / rédactrice" extraordinaire is less ambiguous.

Should I refer to my editor as "rédacteur / rédactrice" instead of as "éditeur / éditrice"?  And which would be preferred for a female editor today, "rédacteur" or "rédactrice"?

[Thanks to Mark Liberman, John Lagerwey, Haun Saussy, and Étienne de la Vaissière]


  1. Keith said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

    This is a tricky one.

    In French, the verb "to publish" is "éditer", and all the related words follow this pattern ("publishing" is "édition", "publisher" is "éditeur" (m)).

    I've never encountered "maison éditrice", but rather "maison d'édition" for "publishing house". It looks plausible, but a Google search for "maison éditrice" just finds lots of "maisons d'édition".

    The French nouns "rédaction" and "rédacteur" correspond to "(the action or profession of) writing" and "writer/author" respectively.

    A newspaper editor, who edits (in the English sense of the word) others' writing, is known as the "rédacteur en chef".

    I'm afraid I'm not being of much help, here…

  2. anne said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

    "Éditeur/trice" does indeed have a different meaning in French (although I would use "éditrice" to refer to a woman working in or even heading a "maison d'édition", but I digress). As for "rédacteur," it really refers to the person who wrote the text.

    The closest to the English "editor" (and shortest) would probably be "correcteur/trice" (see http://www.onisep.fr/Ressources/Univers-Metier/Metiers/correcteur-trice for a description), but there's also "relecteur/trice" and other options given in Le Grand Robert:

    REM. (…) En revanche, au sens de « personne qui prépare un texte pour l'impression », éditeur est un anglicisme (angl. editor). On dit en français préparateur de copie, ou réviseur, correcteur-réviseur, selon les cas.

    As a French "traductrice", I would favor the feminine form – "correctrice", "relectrice" or "réviseuse". In fact, I've seen a trend towards feminizing job titles, rather than making them gender-neutral.

  3. Coby Lubliner said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

    For those status designations ending in -eur that don't have a corresponding -rice, there is a trend to form a feminine in -eure: auteure, professeure… But I have yet to see it replace -rice.

  4. Judith Strauser said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

    Well, it's true that éditeur(-trice) has evolved to mean publisher, not editor, at least to the general public. Of course inside at a publishing house, the person doing the actual editing is often the éditeur(-trice), but not always. Yet outside the profession itself, you do need another word. My problem with rédacteur(-trice) is that I associate it more with the first writer in a chain than with the writer than the re-writer/editor. But I think it can work, and your editor in chief (in a newspaper) is indeed a rédacteur en chef in French.

    There's also correcteur(-trice) (the person who corrected the written text, aka intervened in rewrites – it seems to me that's the closer to what's called editing in English, but in socio-professional terms the perception of the "rank" of the correcteur in French versus editor in English is different.

    Now for the problem of the feminine form – as always, it's a complex issue. There is a (somewhat feminist) push to make all job titles gender-neutral, but since in French it means, for most jobs, to continue using the default masculine form, there's also a feminist push for using and thus rehabilitating the feminine forms. The 5th answer you recieved is interesting and surprising to me, because the second wave feminists of my mother's generation often (in my experience) think that poétesse or doctoresse is vaguely demeaning, since "of course a woman can be a poet or a doctor, no need for a special word". Nowadays there are feminists of my generation or younger (I am one of them) pushing for "auteure" with a finale -e added for woman authors, or even for "autrice", to make the gender marker audible.

    In the case of both éditeur/éditrice and rédacteur/rédactrice, my perception is that neither of those feminine forms carry much stigma of the demeaning, diminutive sort; I think using them is fine and doesn't carry any particular connotation on top of the simple (sic) gender denotation.

    In this case, my personal recommendation would be to use éditrice, though – I would opt for the word that might convey the job that was done less exactly but carries more "respectability" over the word that is perhaps more precise (a debatable point) but seems a lot less "prestigious".

    Of course, a lot of this is personal perception of the general state of a common language. You can probably easily find people who would argue it entirely differently.
    (Please forgive me my overuse of quotation marks.)

  5. Judith Strauser said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 1:47 pm

    Ooops! Erratum – the third sentence above should have been:
    My problem with rédacteur(-trice) is that I associate it more with the first writer in a chain than with the re-writer/editor.

  6. Jeff said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

    I find the discussion very interesting, and so I'm glad you've posed the question in public. But perhaps the more practical solution is to refer to the woman's business card or letterhead and see how she refers to herself?

  7. Simon Wright said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

    "the person who corrected the written text” would be a copy-editor, I think: "Copy editing (also copy-editing or copyediting, sometimes abbreviated ce) is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the content of the text."

  8. Lisa_mona said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

    For using the feminine counterpart:

    I live in Quebec, Canada, and we are very strong on using a feminine term for the women doing the job – some traditional French (from France) peeps will use the masculine indistinctly, but I think it is very archaic, and as a women I prefer if the noun is correctly accorded.

    Here are two website that I use:

    The Quebec French Language Office says:

    éditeur/éditrice would be the correct term to translate publisher.

    The Translation bureau of Canada says:

    says the same. If you talk about the office, you would use the masculine. If you talk about a lady who did the job, that would be éditrice.

    The internet says that other people are using éditrice:

    "Les éditeurs sont les héros méconnus des livres à succès, c’est pourquoi j’aimerais faire une ovation aux héroïques efforts de mon éditrice, Jean Blomquist pour n’avoir vraiment pas compté son temps pour mettre ce livre en forme."

  9. Chips Mackinolty said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

    Although I've never discussed it in detail with anyone, a similar conundrum may exist in Italian. For example, female senators are invariably referred to (in the media) as senatrice. Meanwhile, on the other side of the gendered language, if that is the correct terminology, we have journalista/comunista, for example, which would refer to both females and males. I have certainly never heard of a move to look for a journalisto/journalista split on the grounds of gender equity (and have no idea of the origins of how we got to an apparent feminine noun referring to both genders … would love it if someone could tell me!)

  10. Bloix said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 3:54 pm

    This is hopeless. You're going to have to ask her what she'd like to be called. Better to lose the surprise than to risk offense.

  11. J. W. Brewer said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

    Obviously the details are going to be different in French, but one thing I find striking about English is that solutions to similar tensions are not uniform but go different ways for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Minimal-pair example: those who dislike the traditional designation "actress" as gratuitously sex-specific tend to favor calling women who do that "actors" (i.e. making the traditionally male term applicable to both sexes), whereas by contrast those who dislike the traditional designation "waitress" tend not to want to call those women "waiters" but come up with an alternative (usually "server(s)") that does not have the historical baggage of being a male-only term. I cannot come up with a principled theory as to why the cases should be handled differently other than to suggest that ad hoc solutions not generalized to all arguably parallel cases are probably ubiquitous in natural language if you look closely enough.

  12. Sili said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 4:42 pm

    Have you tried asking your editrix what she prefers?

  13. Levantine said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 5:01 pm

    How about simply dedicating it (in English) to your "extraordinary editor"?

  14. Giacomo Ponzetto said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

    @ Chips Mackinolty

    The words you're thinking of have the agentive suffix -ista, which comes to Italian via the identical Latin from Greek -istès. It's a productive suffix, so in addition to inherited words like artista it shows up in newer ones like comunista or cerchiobottista (a person that tries to have her cake and eat it too).

    These may seem feminine because they end in a, but they are not: un artista comunista is all masculine (while un'artista comunista with an apostrophe is feminine).

    Italian does have entertaining nouns that are feminine in grammatical gender, but more often refer to men than women. Soldiering offers several examples: una guardia, una recluta, una sentinella, una vedetta.

  15. Vasha said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 6:36 pm

    in German, there Is a strong tendency now to always feminize with the suffix -in (so this editor would be a Lektorin); plurals increasingly include the feminine in ad-hoc ways like Lektor/innen or LektorInnen. For those who read German there is lots (and lots) of discussion and links on the blog SprachLog.

  16. Guy said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

    @J.W. Brewer

    At least today, there is nothing odd about using "actor" to refer to a female actor, whereas using "waiter" to refuse to a waitress is downright bizarre. I don't know if this was historically the case as well, but I would expect it to be. If "actor" were historically as gendered as "waiter" is today, it seems unlikely it would ever have begun to be used in a gender-neutral way. If that's correct, the fact that "actor" has become more default today would be a reflection of the fact that it was a less gendered term to begin with. As to why "waiter" might have always been more gendered than "actor", waiting, like nursing and teaching, is a relatively stereotypically female profession. This makes it more natural for the masculine variant to be more gendered than it is with less stereotypically female professions. To take the rare case of a profession that is female in the unmarked case, we certainly wouldn't call all nurses "male nurses" in pursuit of gender-neutrality – it is explicitly marked as masculine in a very obvious way. In essence, "waiter" is more likely to be seen as marked as masculine whereas "actor" is more likely to be seen as simply unmarked for feminine gender.

  17. January First-of-May said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

    In Russian, as apparently in other languages, the male term is often used as gender-neutral, even if the female term isn't considered particularly negative either.
    Sometime in early 2000s, there was a lecture/discussion at my school with the topic of "Цветаева – поэт или поэтесса?" (Tsvetayeva – poet or poetess?) – presumably due to roughly the same connotations as in English; back then, I used to know one Irina Tsvetayeva (no relation, I asked) who wrote some poetry, so I considered it particularly funny.

    Incidentally, as it happened, just a few hours ago I read a discussion on whether the proper English term for a female senator (in the modern sense) should really be "senatrix"; apparently this word was, in fact, the one used for females in the Roman senate (at least, when a few of them actually managed to get there, in the 10th century).

  18. Lisa_mona said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 8:43 pm


    Same in French:
    une personne, une recrue, une sentinelle, une vedette, etc.

    We do also have nouns that are always masculine: un témoin, un médecin, for example.

  19. Victor Mair said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 8:55 pm

    From an American friend who has been living in Paris for five decades:

    Actually this is something of a puzzle.Of course I asked my wife, and the first thing she said was "it's fine".

    The puzzle is that "éditeur" in French mainly means "publisher", though it can also be a person who prepares, selects or annotates a text (an edition of Shakespeare). The editor of a multi-author volume is the "directeur (de la publication)", the editor of a newspaper is a "rédacteur", etc. But for some reason there doesn't seem to be a word for the person who helps an author to get his text together, corrects spelling, suggests changes, and hand-holds generally, distinct from the publisher. Maybe French writers are too proud to admit that they get help. If the person is an employee of the publisher it surely must be OK, and if not maybe it is a bit Franglais, but probably still OK.

    As for gender, I suppose you mean éditeur vs éditrice. My wife is for éditeur (I shouldn't vote). But she did say, "Well, it depends on the woman" (meaning on how she feels about this particular point). Some people even use neologisms like "professeure".

    So I think you can go with her first reaction. Besides, it must be nice to have a book dedicated to you.

    A French comic used to get laughs imitating a presidential speech, intoning "Françaises, Français! Belges, Belges! …"

  20. Bloix said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 9:52 pm

    "waiting, like nursing and teaching, is a relatively stereotypically female profession."

    To the contrary, there was always a strict hierarchy: waitresses in diners and luncheonettes, waiters in white table restaurants and steak houses.

  21. Dr. Decay said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:04 am

    For me, an American who has lived in France for over 20 years, "éditrice" is a no brainer. Although I have little first hand knowledge of publishing jargon, in the fields I know, a profession or title whose name can easily be feminized, is. Thus: "directrice", "présidente", "conseillère" etc. There are tougher cases such as "juge" or "medecin". It seems to me I often hear journalists speak of "la juge" when its a woman but I can't say whether it is in the majority of cases. On the other hand I have never heard of a female MD being called anything other than "le médecin".

  22. Clément said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:24 am

    I never encountered "maison éditrice" before, and this very post is one of the top Google hits for this word, with a bunch of dubious Linguee links. The word is "maison d'édition".

    "éditrice" sounds totally fine to me, while "éditeur" strikes me as odd for a female. But why don't you ask her what she prefers?

  23. Daniel said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 5:48 am

    As a native French speaker, I can confirm Victor's American friend's view that there is no word in French for "editor". Thus "éditeur/éditrice extraordinaire" would probably be understood in different ways according to the reader.
    A French speaker dedicating a book would probably go for something like "À xxx, sans qui ce livre ne serait pas ce qu'il est.", thus doing away with both the job title and the gender issue, and omitting "extraordinaire", which would probably be felt as hyperbolic in French in this context.

  24. Victor Mair said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 6:02 am

    To all those who suggested that I directly ask my editor what her preference would be, although I appreciate the suggestion, I can't do that because I want the dedication to be a surprise.

    No matter what I end up using — the jury is still out here at Language Log — I'm sure that she will understand the sentiment behind it and that she will know I mean to say that I couldn't have done it without her.

  25. Lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 6:17 am


    If it's a surprise, ask her for a business card ;)

  26. empty said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 7:01 am

    Maybe you could rewrite the sentence so as to avoid the word for "editor" but still have a word for "to edit" or a phrase for "editorial help".

    I have been struck by the fact that our washing machine, labelled bilingually for use in Canada I suppose, calls itself a "laveuse automatique".

  27. lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 7:30 am


    Is it the feminine that strikes you as odd? We don't use "automatique", but we do say "laveuse" quite often. I think in France they use the "machine à laver", which is closer to the english counterpart. In Quebec/Canada, we use the -euse suffix (someone or something who…) and say "laveuse" et "sécheuse" for the washing and drying machines (like I bet you would say washer and dryer?). Because they are things that wash and dry :)

  28. Marguerite said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 8:34 am

    In what world is "waiter" for a woman bizarre? Perhaps it's because I'm youngish (34) and urban (or just Houstonian), but I can't recall the last time I heard "waitress." Has the same old-fashioned ring to me as "stewardess." At least in some parts of the English-speaking world, "waiter" is a perfectly acceptable gender-neutral job title. (Heard my 92 year old grandmother refer to the woman clearing our table as a busboy recently – now *that* entertained me!)

  29. mollymooly said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 8:45 am

    In English, feminism has substituted common-gender terms for BOTH the generic-masculine (man, mankind, his ==> person, humankind, our/their) AND the patronising feminine (lady doctor ==> doctor, poetess ==> poet, chairwoman ==> chair,chairperson ).

    Common-gender terms are harder to find in French; feminising the generic-masculine may be seen as affirmative or as patronising, depending on stuff.

    "I can't do that because I want the dedication to be a surprise." I hope she doesn't read Language Log!

  30. Levantine said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 9:59 am

    Marguerite, I'm a 33-year-old Londoner who went to the States (East Coast) for graduate school, and I barely heard "waiter" used of men, and certainly never of women. I agree with J. W. Brewer that "waiter" retains its masculine associations (certainly more than "actor" does) and that "server" has therefore taken the role of the gender-neutral designation.

    The reason I noticed any of this at all is that I hadn't heard "server" before my move the States. I don't believe the word has yet made its way to the UK, and I would still use "waiter" and "waitress" there without worry. But things may yet change. When I was growing up, I had a deputy headmistress (though gender-neutral "headteacher" wasn't unknown to me), and the term "manageress" (which now sounds ridiculous) was still in use.

  31. Robert Coren said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 10:17 am

    @lisa_mona: Do the names of these devices have feminine endings because "machine" is grammatically feminine?

    General question: My French is a little shaky, but "professeure" surprises me; I would have expected "professeuse" if one wanted to feminize the noun (as exemplified by "masseuse", "chanteuse", etc.).

  32. @Bloix said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 10:24 am

    My point was that the fact that there was any stereopycal conception of female waitstaff at all made it a historically "relatively stereotypically female proffession". This sets it apart from most other professions where there wasn't a such a thing.

  33. Guy said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 10:34 am

    Oops, misplaced text in the name field above

  34. Jonathan said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 11:10 am

    Pretend that you're informally collecting some data (as you so often do) and ask her what the current French term for her occupation is. If she would be suspicious about your researching French, tell her it's for a colleague.

  35. Victor Mair said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 11:51 am

    From a colleague:

    …"éditeur extraordinaire” is fine. The alternative would be "éditrice extraordinaire” which although correct strikes me as less common. Given that either could work, what's most appropriate in this case might then depend on the editor’s own views. I realize that’s not very helpful if you want to keep this a surprise!

  36. John Cowan said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 11:57 am

    I think that part of the second-wave feminists' resistance to specifically female occupational titles, at least outside the Anglosphere, was that words like éditrice meant primarily 'wife of an éditeur' until the early 20C. Even today, the wife of a Lord Mayor in the U.K. and Australia is the Lady Mayoress, and when a woman is Lord Mayor, there typically isn't a Lady Mayoress, though that may change if a future female Lord Mayor has a wife. One female Lord Mayor of Brisbane appointed her mother as Lady Mayoress and gave her husband a different gender-neutral title.

    Speaking of ladies, if Hilary Clinton becomes Madam President in 2017, the U.S. will enter one of the rare periods of not having a First Lady (of 43 presidents, we have had one lifelong bachelor, one bachelor who married in office, four widowers, and two widowed in office). Indeed, it will not be clear what to call her husband at all: traditionally, all former Presidents are called (Mr.) President, so Mr. Clinton would be a social demotion, but referring to both Bill and Hilary as President Clinton would be utterly intolerable. It's been suggested that their daughter may become de facto First Lady. Lindsey Graham, a 2016 Republican candidate who has never married, has announced that he would have a "rotating First Lady" among his female friends and relations.

  37. Victor Mair said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 11:57 am

    A couple of observations:

    1. Of those whom I know, the people who opt for "éditrice extraordinaire” tend to be younger and more on the feminist side, while those who opt for "éditeur extraordinaire” tend to be older and more "by the book".

    2. The overall trend (especially among younger folk) in France seems to be the opposite of that in English speaking countries, viz., the creation of new feminine terms for occupations in the former, etc. vs. the reduction of specifically feminine forms in favor of neutral terms in the latter.

  38. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

    John Cowan: I thought the tradition was not to refer to a living former president as "President X" or to address him (so far) as "Mr. President". Here's advice from a guy who wrote a Forms of Address book, Emily Post's descendants, and Miss Manners.

    If Hillary Clinton is elected, I imagine we'll handle it about the same way as we did when George W. Bush was president. I like the "Governor Clinton" method.

    I know nothing about female editors in French.

  39. Bean said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

    An interesting discussion, and as a solution to the original problem, I was also going to suggest the surreptitious "random language discussion" route to find out how she refers to herself. If not with you directly (some are better at casual information extraction than others), then from a colleague in cahoots with you. A spy, essentially! :)

  40. Lane said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 2:17 pm

    Well, there *is* an official rule-making body in France on this stuff, but you could read my entire book as a reason why they should shove it. Here is the Académie française on "la ministre" in place of "le ministre":

    MINISTRE n. m. {XIIe siècle. Emprunté du latin minister, « serviteur ».}
    L’emploi du féminin dans La ministre, et dans Madame la Ministre, qui est apparu en 1997, constitue une faute d’accord résultant de la confusion de la personne et de la fonction.


  41. lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

    The Académie Française is immensly old school. The Office Québecois de la langue française has done tremendous work in that field.
    "Féminise-t-on ailleurs dans les autres pays francophones?
    La féminisation des noms de métiers, de professions et de fonctions est un mouvement qui touche l’ensemble des pays francophones. La France, la Belgique et la Suisse ont elles aussi publié un guide de rédaction qui répertorie les appellations de personne au féminin. Vous trouverez à l’article Bibliographie sur la féminisation et la rédaction épicène les références de ces guides, format papier et électronique. Mais c’est au Québec qu’existe la plus riche expertise en matière de féminisation linguistique et que l’emploi des noms féminins est le plus entré dans l’usage."

    They also refer to : http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/var/storage/rapports-publics/994001174.pdf
    La forme féminine se termine par -trice dans les conditions suivantes, non exclusives les unes des autres :

    — il existe un substantif corrélé au nom se terminant par -tion, -ture, ou -torat (quelle que soit la terminaison du verbe correspondant) (éditeur/édition ; lecteur/lecture; tuteur/tutorat)

    For editeur/rice, all the sources are in agreement: you would use éditrice.

    So unless the lady is older that 60-70 years old (in which case I would doubt on what she prefers), I would go for the feminine form.

  42. lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

    @Robert Coren:

    The same link above explains:
    Au Québec et en Suisse professeure; en Belgique professeur. Le verbe
    professer s’entendant aujourd’hui au sens de « enseigner », la forme
    professeuse, attestée, est envisageable.

    (But I must add I NEVER saw that form, and in Québec we use professeure/enseignante)

  43. Jeremy Fry said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

    As a slight side-note – with regard to english female versions of (predominately) male job titles, has anyone encountered portress, as a female porter, outside of the University of Bristol UK?

  44. empty said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:33 pm

    I suppose that I jumped to the conclusion that before there were washing machines "laveuse" meant "washerwoman", and that there was no corresponding word "laveur" (as there is no English word "washerman") because of the occupation being traditionally feminine. So the little joke in my head was "What if we called washing machines "automatic washerwomen?"

  45. Bloix said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

    @Bloix is not me – I assume it's Guy.
    Until a few decades ago, every profession was ruthlessly gendered. Nurse and sister are obviously female gendered, and that was it. Everything else was male, unless it had a gendered ending or had a gendered word attached. An actor, an actress. An artist, a woman artist. A writer, a lady writer. A comedian, a comedienne. A tailor, a seamstress. A tutor, a governess. A farmer, a farmer's wife. Gender was a fundamental characteristic of any occupation and it was not possible to conceive of a job of work without attaching gender to the person performing it.

    As for actor, the reason actress is falling into disuse is emphatically not because the profession is somehow less gendered than waiting tables. It's that acting at the upper levels is a very prestigious profession and women actors, who have a lot of clout and who want recognition and pay equal to their male counterparts, have begun to demand to be called actors.

  46. Bloix said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:37 pm

    Empty – there is most certainly a word "laundryman."

  47. Judith Strauser said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

    A propos of "autrice" in French, a friend just linked me to this article from a few weeks ago. I thought you might be interested.

  48. Lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 3:56 pm

    empty: I get it now :)

    But I get I would've used "blanchisseuse" and "buandière" before "laveuse".

    Also, I guess that before washing machines, the name of the person responsible for laundry was only "woman" ;-)

  49. Lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

    @Judith : Very interesting!

    "Béroalde de Verville écrit ainsi cette année-là : «On dit que si les femmes savaient, elles voudraient commander». "

    Well, I guess it was true. :-D

  50. Catanea said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

    I don't see Marie-Lucie on this topic. If the dilemma was mine, she's the person I'd ask.

  51. Bathrobe said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 5:59 pm

    My concern here would be that by using éditeur or éditrice you would only be furthering the inroads of English semantics into French. If an éditeur is normally understood as 'publisher', wouldn't you be just making a contribution to the disruption of the existing terminology and furthering confusion?

  52. Lisa_mona said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 6:13 pm

    Oooooooo sorry my mistake, I thought the lady was working at the publishing house.

    Then you could say "réviseure" also.
    That would be the translation of that meaning of editor.

  53. John Swindle said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 10:26 pm

    You've probably already tried this, but you might be able to find her actual job title with a Google search on her name or her organization. The job title might or might not help you decide what to call her.

  54. Shmuel said,

    July 8, 2015 @ 10:30 pm

    You might want to look at the French-language website of the
    Editors' Association of Canada / Association canadienne des réviseurs

  55. per incuriam said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 7:26 am

    Well, there *is* an official rule-making body in France on this stuff, but you could read my entire book as a reason why they should shove it. Here is the Académie française on "la ministre" in place of "le ministre"

    This notion that the Académie française is an "official rule-making body" is a common misconception, particularly prevalent in the English-language media. Consider the case of Julien Aubert, a member of the French parliament, who found to his cost that following the Academy's recommendations can even be in violation of official rules.

  56. Robert Coren said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 10:04 am

    @Bloix: Until a few decades ago, every profession was ruthlessly gendered.


  57. Levantine said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 10:43 am

    Robert Coren, schoolmistress. Admittedly, this may have fallen out of use more than just a few decades ago.

  58. JJM said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 11:48 am

    There's another problem: "gender-neutral" is a largely Anglophone construct (we don't actually mean gender neutrality at all really, we mean "sex neutrality").

    A language like French really highlights this. It is not actually possible to be gender-neutral in French: every noun must always be either masculine or feminine.

    So a general reference to a "teacher" (where sex is irrelevant) must be masculine (un professeur). It works the other way too: the victim of a car crash – whether male or female – is feminine (la victime). Come to think of it, even the French cognate of our trusty all-purpose gender-neutral word "person" is feminine in French (une personne).

  59. JJM said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 11:53 am


    (I'm retired Canadian military.)

    When the Canadian Army opened the combat arms trades to women, the French terminology was amended appropriately. Thus a female artillery gunner is "une artilleure".

  60. lisa_mona said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 12:09 pm


    Very interesting to know!!

    Bravo to the Canadian Army :)

  61. julie lee said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

    @ Dr. Decay says the French for "physician" is the masculine form "le médecin", with no feminine form. I found it interesting that "physician" in German has both masculine and feminine forms
    "Arzt {m}; Ärztin {f}; Mediziner {m}; Medizinerin {f}". In Mandarin, nouns have no gender, so "yisheng" stands for both masculine and feminine "physician". To indicate gender, we can say "woman doctor" or "woman physician" (nu yisheng). There is another solution to gender in naming. My mother was an only child and a girl, which was considered unfortunate in male-centered China. So she was given a masculine name by her parents, and treated as an honorary boy. She was addressed as "brother", not "sister", by her cousins, and as "Uncle" not "Auntie" by her nieces and nephews. I prefer the term "editeur" to "editrice", just as I'd prefer "doctor"and "professor" to "doctoress" or "professoress" for women.

  62. Ron said,

    July 9, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

    @ Lane
    Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, shares your sentiments. As I'm sure you know, she insists (as well she should) on being called "madame la maire."

  63. bfwebster said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 12:49 pm

    bloix: the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has been using "Best Actor" and "Best Actress" for nearly 90 years and still does today. I'd say that's pretty definitely gendered.

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