Friday, 3 June 2016

Why do we call boats 'she'?

Do you know why a boat is called 'she'?

In the Chesapeake Bay, many of the work boats were traditionally named after women. The names usually reflected a female family member. No one knows where this tradition originated, but a few speculate that the naming tradition reflects the waterman's connection to his family.

Believe this if you want:
A ship is called ‘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 it takes a lot of paint to keep her looking good!! It is not the initial expense that breaks you, it’s the up keep.  She can be all decked out but it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly and without him at the helm she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom, and, coming into port she always heads for the buoys :)

I’d like to think it’s more like this:
The exact reason why boats are called she in English is lost to history. While explanations abound, most appear to be of the folk variety, assumed or invented after the fact as a way to make sense of the phenomenon. Boats are a truly interesting case in English, as they are among the only inanimate objects that take a gendered pronoun, whereas most others are called ‘it’.

Countries are also called ‘she’, as are cars sometimes, but the latter example is almost certainly an extension from boats.

One plausible theory is that boats are called ‘she’ because they are traditionally given female names, typically the name of an important woman in the life of the boat's owner, such as his mother or wife. It has also been surmised that all ships were once dedicated to goddesses, and later to important mortal women when belief in goddesses waned.

Interestingly, although male captains and sailors historically attributed the spirit of a benevolent female figure to their ships, actual women were considered very bad luck at sea.

Another theory as to why boats are called ‘she’ points to the existence of grammatical gender in most Indo-European languages besides English. While modern English has hardly any grammatical gender, limited for the most part to cases of natural gender, such as the nouns ‘woman’ and ‘man’ being called ‘she’ and ‘he’ respectively, there is evidence that English once had a more extensive system of grammatical gender, similar to that in languages such as German and French. In most Indo-European languages with grammatical gender, the word for ‘ship’ is feminine.

So there you have it, our men name their boats after us, their lovey women :)

We hope you found that interesting, and maybe you learned something new today. As they say, every day is a school day.