Think of the Golden Gate Bridge. Would you describe it as fragile, elegant, and slender? Or strong, dangerous, and sturdy? When they pictured a bridge, a group of German speakers offered the first group of words, while Spanish speakers offered the second, NPR reports. The difference, believes the psychologist behind the study, is language. For Germans, “bridge” is the feminine noun “die brucke”; in Spanish, it’s the masculine “el puente.”
The experiment suggests that the grammatical gender of an object in a person’s native language influences how that person views the object. The psychologist even developed a made-up language called Gumbuzi and taught it to some English speakers. After just a day in the lab, their perceptions conformed to Gumbuzi’s arbitrary gender assignments. Words, the study concludes, matter—a rose by some other name might smell entirely different.