The Scottish Maritime Museum has suffered an incident of vandalism. On a display board describing the steam yacht Rifle, all references to the vessel as she have been scratched out.
And what has happened next? Has the museum put up some CCTV to catch the blighter who did it?
No, the museum has decided to change all references to vessels from she to it.
Admiral Lord West is not amused:
'It’s about time that those in charge of our institutions realised that they cannot let a vocal minority of right-on fools, often utilising the power of social media, push the rest of us around. Our history and traditions cannot be held hostage by people who choose to be perennially offended.'
Powerful stuff, eh?
As it happens, both the Navy and the British Marine Industries Federation agree with the Admiral. They will continue to call ships she.
And why not, after all? It's not as if calling a ship she is in any way an insult to women. A ship is the fostering mother of her crew. A ship will always be treated with respect for the same reason a plane is treated with respect: because all lives aboard depend upon it.
There are, as far as I can see, two matters arising.
First, how will the offended vandal get on if he or she goes to one of the many countries in the world where nouns are routinely assigned a more or less random gender (and the majority of languages have such a system)?
And, second, I do hope there aren't any militant feminist bell ringers out there. Because I'd hate to think that English ringers will no longer be called to attention with the words Look to; treble's going; she's gone.
Word To Use Today: she. No one is completely sure why a ship is called she, but it's likely it is a reference to the goddesses and saints which have long been called upon to look after sailors.
PS Ice breakers in Finland and French ships are masculine, and German and Dutch ships are neuter.
There may be some conclusion to be drawn from this, but if there is I don't know what it is.
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