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Why do we refer to our ships as SHE

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Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by cthia   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 2:51 pm

cthia
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Sometimes I talk to myself. And I asked me "Why Are Ships Referred to As She?" My guess can only come out of my own experiences and logic. As men - who once were the only sex on these ships - we love our women and we do all we can to protect our women from harm. Especially a damsel in distress, leading us to psychologically impart a female form to that we hold so dearly. I decided to cross check my sentiment with the internet. . .

Why We Call a Ship a She
By Rear Admiral Francis D. Foley, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Naval History, December 1998

A salty retired U.S. Navy flag officer shuns the current trend toward political correctness. Ships are referred to as "she" because men love them, but this encompasses far more than just that. Man-o'-war or merchantman, there can be a great deal of bustle about her as well as a gang of men on deck, particularly if she is slim-waisted, well-stacked, and has an inviting superstructure. It is not so much her initial cost as it is her upkeep that makes you wonder where you founder.

She is greatly admired when freshly painted and all decked out to emphasize her cardinal points. If an aircraft carrier, she will look in a mirror when about to be arrested, and will wave you off if she feels you are sinking too low or a little too high, day or night. She will not hangar around with duds, but will light you off and launch you into the wild blue yonder when you muster a full head of steam.

Even a submarine reveals her topsides returning to port, heads straight for the buoys, knows her pier, and gets her breast-lines out promptly if she is single-screwed. On departure, no ship leaves port asleep, she always leaves awake. She may not mind her helm or answer to the old man when the going gets rough, and can be expected to kick up her heels on a family squall.A ship costs a lot to dress, sometimes blows a bit of smoke, and requires periodic overhauls to extend her useful life.

Some have a cute fantail, others are heavy in the stern, but all have double-bottoms which demand attention. When meeting head-on, sound a recognition signal; whistle! If she does not answer up, come about and start laying alongside, but watch to see if her ship is slowing . . . perhaps her slip is showing? Then proceed with caution until danger of collision is over and you can fathom how much latitude she will allow.

If she does not remain on an even keel, let things ride, feel your way, and do not cross the line until you determine weather the "do" point is right for a prolonged blast. Get the feel of the helm, stay on the right tact, keep her so, and she will pay off handsomely. If she is in the roaring forties, however, you may be in the dangerous semi-circle, so do not expect much "luff," especially under bare poles. She may think you are not under command or control and shove off.

If she edges aweigh, keep her steady as she goes, but do not sink into the doldrums. Just remember that "to furnish a ship requireth much trouble, but to furnish a woman the cost is double!"To the women who now help us "man" our ships, my apologies for the foregoing. Only the opening phrase presents my true feelings. After all, a ship's bell(e) will always remain her most prized possession, and every good ship has a heart, just like yours.

A trick at the wheel, like you, would have been welcome aboard when I was on "she" duty for 40 years. May God bless you all, sweetheart!

Admiral Foley is a long-time contributor to Naval History and the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Good Point! At Naval History's editorial offices, in the presence of the author, the editor reacted to the above with a resounding: "Most of our readers will love it; the women will hate it!" Coincidentally, the U.S. Naval Institute's chief financial officer, obviously sensitive to such statements, overheard and inquired: "The women will hate what?" She then heard of plans to publish "Why We Call a Ship a She." Unaware of the author's presence, she asked: "If they call ships she, then why do they name them Arleigh Burke?" To that, Admiral Foley responded, "Good point!"


Other sources. . .

Ships are referred to as "she" for several reasons that reflect tradition and cultural norms. Early sailors used a feminine form of address to acknowledge the maternal role their ships represented, and some languages use the feminine form of address for common nouns like ship, car or plane.



In addition, a ship can be called "she" to acknowledge various characteristics that are similar to the female form and to acknowledge the high concentration of males aboard the ship. In modern times, the emergent trend towards political correctness challenges these sentiments, especially since an increasing number of women serve aboard military and commercial ships.


I really like this one. . .

Why is a ship a she?

Why are ships called she?

“A ship is called a she because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good-looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hiders her bottom and, when coming into port, always heads for the buoys.”

Based on this prose posted in the wardrooms of most U.S. naval ships and printed on many a tacky tea-towel (take it as mildly cheeky or inexcusably offensive), this is the explanation most people will offer up. (See also the even more chauvinistic rendering by Rear Admiral Francis D. Foley below.)

But seriously: why are ships and countries (and sometimes cars and other vessels and vehicles) often referred to with the feminine pronoun? Although the practice has been in steady decline for some time now, thanks no doubt to feminism and PC journalistic style guides (the Chicago and AP manuals strongly discourage it, and even maritime authorities now frown on its usage), it’s nevertheless been historically ingrained in nautical language and lore for many centuries. One prosaic explanation is that the gender of the Latin word for “ship” — Navis — is feminine. But people generally agree on the more romantic notion of the ‘ship as a she’ phenomenon: that it stems from the tradition of boat-owners, typically and historically male, naming their vessels after significant women in their lives — wives, sweethearts, mothers. Similarly, and more broadly, ships were once dedicated to goddesses, and later also to mortal women of national or historic significance, thereby bestowing a benevolent feminine spirit on the vessels that would carry seafarers across treacherous oceans. Figureheads on the prows of ships were often depictions of such female namesakes, denoting the name of the ship for a largely illiterate maritime population. This practice dated from the early 18th century, before which superstition had it that the presence of women aboard sailing vessels — whether in human or representative form — was an omen of bad luck. The practice of naming boats and ships after women continues today, although certainly not exclusively, as does the habit of feminizing our sailing vessels.

Like ships, but with declining frequency, countries have historically assumed a female form in historical and literary contexts — especially when the author or speaker seeks to personify that country for rhetorical or poetic effect. The New York Times in February 1917 quoted the then editor of The Economist, Hartley Withers, discussing a nation contemplating war: “If America with all her treasure of gold comes into the war against Germany she will be of incalculable help to her allies, regardless of anything she may do as a fighting force. If she stays out, as now, with broken relations with Germany, she will be an equally potent support to us. America’s wealth and financial aid mean everything to the Allies.” National personifications of countries in female forms have been extremely popular over the years, especially in the context of wartime propaganda and patriotism: Brittania, Germania, Mother Russia, Marianne (for France), and Italia Turrita are but a few examples. However, male symbols of nations are not uncommon; John Bull (for the UK) and Uncle Sam (representing the U.S. government) are two notable exceptions to the female country rule. To personify a country in the female form, both linguistically and symbolically, is now something of an anachronism. But despite our gender-blind naming of diseases, hurricanes, storms and other forces of nature, we still bestow on our planetary home and the very core of our existence names of the ultimate symbols of life-giving femininity: Mother Earth and Mother Nature.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Why We Call a Ship a She?”

By Rear Admiral Francis D. Foley, U.S. Navy (Retired), Naval History, December 1998

“Ships are referred to as ‘she’ because men love them, but this encompasses far more than just that. Man-o’-war or merchantman, there can be a great deal of bustle about her as well as a gang of men on deck, particularly if she is slim-waisted, well-stacked, and has an inviting superstructure. It is not so much her initial cost as it is her upkeep that makes you wonder where you founder.

She is greatly admired when freshly painted and all decked out to emphasize her cardinal points. If an aircraft carrier, she will look in a mirror when about to be arrested, and will wave you off if she feels you are sinking too low or a little too high, day or night. She will not hangar around with duds, but will light you off and launch you into the wild blue yonder when you muster a full head of steam.

“Even a submarine reveals her topsides returning to port, heads straight for the buoys, knows her pier, and gets her breast-lines out promptly if she is single-screwed. On departure, no ship leaves port asleep, she always leaves a wake. She may not mind her helm or answer to the old man when the going gets rough, and can be expected to kick up her heels on a family squall.

“A ship costs a lot to dress, sometimes blows a bit of smoke, and requires periodic overhauls to extend her useful life. Some have a cute fantail, others are heavy in the stern, but all have double-bottoms which demand attention. When meeting head-on, sound a recognition signal; whistle. If she does not answer up, come about and start laying alongside, but watch to see if her ship is slowing . . . perhaps her slip is showing? Then proceed with caution until danger of collision is over and you can fathom how much latitude she will allow.

“If she does not remain on an even keel, let things ride, feel your way, and do not cross the line until you determine ‘weather’ the “do” point is right for a prolonged blast. Get the feel of the helm, stay on the right “tact”, keep her so, and she will pay off handsomely. If she is in the roaring forties, however, you may be in the dangerous semi-circle, so do not expect much “luff,” especially under bare poles.

“She may think you are not under command or control and shove off. If she edges aweigh, keep her steady as she goes, but do not sink into the doldrums. Just remember that ‘to furnish a ship requires much trouble, but to furnish a woman the cost is double!’

“To the women who now help us “man” our ships, my apologies for the foregoing. Only the opening phrase presents my true feelings. After all, a ship’s bell(e) will always remain her most prized possession, and every good ship has a heart, just like yours. A trick at the wheel, like you, would have been welcome aboard when I was on “she” duty for 40 years. May God bless you all, sweetheart!”

This entry was posted in Etymology, Words, phrases & expressions and tagged female country personifications, why is a ship a she on March 30, 2013 by Louise.

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by roseandheather   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:02 pm

roseandheather
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Posts: 2012
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Because Reasons.

Any questions? :lol:
~*~


I serve at the pleasure of President Pritchart.

Javier & Eloise
"You'll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley..."
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by cthia   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:09 pm

cthia
Fleet Admiral

Posts: 10029
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:10 pm

Incidentally, I didn't think there were many ships named after women, inspite of man's tendency to consider her as a she. I was correct, though there are many more than I thought. I was only aware of the Pocohontas, the Queen of France and the Lady Washington.

Son, your mother says I have to hang you. Personally I don't think this is a capital offense. But if I don't hang you, she's gonna hang me and frankly, I'm not the one in trouble. —cthia's father. Incident in ? Axiom of Common Sense
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by Dauntless   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:28 pm

Dauntless
Commodore

Posts: 833
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Location: United Kingdom

don't the Russians and Chinese use HE as the pronoun of choice for their ships?
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by Bill Woods   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:38 pm

Bill Woods
Captain of the List

Posts: 535
Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:39 pm

"A ship is always referred to as 'she' because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder."
— Chester W. Nimitz
----
Imagined conversation:
Admiral [noting yet another Manty tech surprise]:
XO, what's the budget for the ONI?
Vice Admiral: I don't recall exactly, sir. Several billion quatloos.
Admiral: ... What do you suppose they did with all that money?
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:39 pm

runsforcelery
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Posts: 2121
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 11:39 am
Location: South Carolina

Bill Woods wrote:"A ship is always referred to as 'she' because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder."




Might want to consider the etiology of "boatswain," which dates from the 1400s, as well.

Ships have been "she" for a long, long, long time.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by saber964   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:22 pm

saber964
Admiral

Posts: 2292
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cthia wrote:Incidentally, I didn't think there were many ships named after women, inspite of man's tendency to consider her as a she. I was correct, though there are many more than I thought. I was only aware of the Pocohontas, the Queen of France and the Lady Washington.



The Royal Navy has several also.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Princess Royal
HMS Queen Mary

Or feminine names
HMS Caroline
HMS Cleopatra
HMS Kelly
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by phillies   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:23 pm

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Posts: 1770
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Because we speak English.

English going back to the original Saxon started with more gendered nouns, but still has a few gendered nouns left. "ship" is one of them. In at least one dialect spoken in England "stone" (as in "rock") is another.

roseandheather wrote:Because Reasons.

Any questions? :lol:
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by Weird Harold   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:41 pm

Weird Harold
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Posts: 4252
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:25 pm
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cthia wrote:Sometimes I talk to myself. And I asked me "Why Are Ships Referred to As She?"


Tradition!
.
.
.
Answers! I got lots of answers!

(Now if I could just find the right questions.)
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Re: Why do we refer to our ships as SHE
Post by Bill Woods   » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:55 pm

Bill Woods
Captain of the List

Posts: 535
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Weird Harold wrote:Tradition!

The ad that came with that, for the Purple™ seat cushion ... oy!
I wasn't sure whether it was a joke or a real product. Apparently both.
----
Imagined conversation:
Admiral [noting yet another Manty tech surprise]:
XO, what's the budget for the ONI?
Vice Admiral: I don't recall exactly, sir. Several billion quatloos.
Admiral: ... What do you suppose they did with all that money?
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