Ask a German to describe a bridge, and they are likely to use words like beautiful and elegant. Ask a Spanish speaker, and they will use words like big and dangerous. Now, ask them to describe a key. The German will say hard and heavy while the Spanish speaker will say lovely and intricate. Why? According to work by Boroditsky and co-authors, that’s because in German the bridge takes a feminine article and the key takes the masculine. And, as you may have guessed, the reverse is true in Spanish.
A couple weeks ago I was fortunate to serve as a discussant at one (of the many) launch events for Branko Milanovic’s latest book: Global Inequality: A new approach for the age of globalization. The book is hugely thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read. Along with many people in the audience, we had a great conversation. Over lunch afterwards, Branko urged me to put my thoughts into a blog – so here they are!