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On ne naît pas femme: on le devientThe Life of a Sentence$
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Bonnie Mann and Martina Ferrari

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190608811

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190608811.001.0001

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The Life of a Sentence

The Life of a Sentence

Translation as a Lived Experience

(p.279) 13 The Life of a Sentence
On ne naît pas femme: on le devient

Constance Borde

Sheila Malovany-Chevallier

Oxford University Press

When translating The Second Sex—published in 2009 and 2010—the translators had to find the right translation for the word femme, a word with multiple meanings and connotations. For the iconic sentence, On ne nait pas femme: on le devient, a translation was chosen that omits the indefinite article “a” (used in the 1953 translation): One is not born, but becomes, woman. While the antecedent for the pronoun le in the French is femme, it refers to a state of being, the essence of woman. The dropping of the indefinite article “a” indicates generality and not specificity. Much engaging discussion has evolved over this choice, bringing up issues of grammar, philosophy and of course translation.

Keywords:   Key words, The Second Sex, femme, grammar, philosophy, translation

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