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Reading this question, regarding the use of the feminine article alongside the word Gestapo, I started wondering why, in Spanish, we say "la KGB"? I mean, why do we use la?

KGB stands for Комит́ет госуд́арственной безоп́асности, or in Spanish, Comité para la Seguridad del Estado. If Comité is a masculine word (both in Spanish and Russian), and considering the answers given to the aforementioned question, then I can't explain the wide use of the feminine article alongside the initials KGB.

  • 1
    En este caso no estoy de acuerdo con la premisa. A mí me suena mucho más su uso en masculino: "el KGB". De hecho, en la página de la Wikipedia usan el masculino, del mismo modo que usamos el masculino en el FBI. – Charlie Mar 20 at 6:30
  • @Charlie Yo disiento contigo y NGram también. books.google.com/ngrams/… – RubioRic Mar 20 at 7:55
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Well, being the one that pointed the duplicity of determiners el/la in relation with KGB, let me copy my thesis from the original question

I've realized that there is a rare exception to this rule: KGB (in Spanish: Comité para la Seguridad del Estado). I've read both el KGB and la KGB. We can use el taking Comité as its nucleus but we also may use la because KGB is a secret police agency, like their counterpart la CIA. KGB was an agency and a sort of police like the Gestapo so we use la as determiner as well.

@phoog pointed in the comments another exceptional related name: Stasi. Stasi means in Spanish Ministerio para la Seguridad del Estado, that is a masculine name but Stasi uses the feminine determiner la in Spanish. It's just my opinion but I think that the use in both cases, KGB and Stasi, of the determiner la is a consecuence of the historical context, the Cold War, where they both fight against their American counterpart the CIA, being the three of them secret police agencies, agencias de policía secreta, feminine in Spanish.

Last but not least, let me link a NGram that demonstrates both uses of el KGB and la KGB in Spanish books. It seems that la KGB is more common these days (probably due to the presence of her counterpart la CIA as I have mentioned) but you can verify that earlier el KGB was used too when it was properly translated as Comité.

ngram

ngram zoom

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My feeling here is that organizations tend to take the feminine gender because most of them are indeed feminine, beginning with words like

  • Unión
  • Alianza
  • Organización
  • Asociación
  • Comisión
  • Agencia
  • Comunidad
  • Fundación

Note that this in turn has to do with the fact that the abstract words ending in -ción, -sión, -dad are always feminine in Spanish.

In the case of KGB, it is absolutely not obvious to the Spanish speaker that this should be feminine, but if you have any idea about the KGB, you'll know that it was either a secret police (policía secreta) or an intelligence agency (agencia de inteligencia) or something in between, and of course both policía and agencia are feminine. If you're also used to talking about other organizations of this kind in the feminine, the similarities in meaning will nudge you towards the feminine gender for KGB as well (Gestapo was mentioned; INTERPOL is feminine as well).

  • I think this idea agrees with the Google NGram, which shows some surges in the use of the masculine (el KGB). Some people noticed what the K stood for, started using the masculine, others followed suit... but, eventually, people forgot about it and usage returned to the "traditional" feminine. – Gorpik Mar 20 at 8:15

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