The “it” in the heading refers to a ship.. Traditionally ships have been referred to as a SHE..
One of the readers asked “why is a ship called a she“..
I am not sure if anyone knows the real reason or the origin as to why a ship is referred to as a she..
Linking a gender to inanimate objects is nothing new and has been carrying for many years.. For example
- Languages like Deutsche attaches a gender to inanimate objects
- Nature is referred to as Mother Nature
- India is referred to as Bharat Maatha (Mother India) by Indian people
In the case of a ship, many theories (cultural/spiritual, literal, romantic, familial, fun) abound though, some of which are
- A cultural/spiritual theory is that ships were referred to as a She in obeisance to a Sea Goddess
- A literal theory is that the Latin word for Ship is NAVIS and this is considered to be feminine and since many of the olden days pioneers spoke Latin, a ship was referred to as a She
- A romantic or familial theory is that in the past, the presence of women was not allowed on ships or in some cases was considered bad luck.. Therefore ship owners used to name ships after their wives, mothers, aunts etc just to be more closer to them and that tradition stuck
- Of course there is also the fun theory used by many seafarers which says
“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.”
Whatever the reason that a ship was called a she, it is a thing of the past now, at least from the side of Lloyd’s List (which is the world’s oldest maritime newspaper)..
Lloyds List took a decision some years ago to put an end to this tradition and have started referring to ships “IT” so now it doesn’t really matter whether it is a boy or a girl..
It is just an IT..
Are you Sad or Happy about this tradition of calling a ship a she coming to an end..?? Share your thoughts..
The below piece is hanging on a wall in our office and I always thought it was spot on. Although I do know most of the readers already know about it, there it goes for those who don’t:
“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.”
Personally, I have spent quite a few nights debating(while sipping considerable amounts of spirits) with friends the reason(s) for this. I can tell you that in my native language(Greek) it is not unusual for inanimate object to have a “grammar gender” but it does not necessarily mean that there is a gender attachment as well.
That being said, I like to believe that this is not the case. In my personal experience, a ship is like a lady. If you want her to treat you well, you need to treat her well. There will always be ‘that one’ ship. There will also be the one that got away. I could go on and on but I believe the message is across.
Have a good one everybody!
I deffinily prefer refering ship a she, because in spanish (wich is my native lenguage) ship is “nave” wich use she = “la” reffereing as a girl. I’LL KEEP IT TRADICIONAL.
A ship is called a she because it conceived like a woman and also deliver, its like the features of a she.
Definitely sad news. “She” was more romantic))
Whatever, Lloyd’s List can introduce official standard but can hardly teach the “gang of men about” HER how to call HER)))
she always look beautiful, she is soft and caring nature. she is carrying the cargo loads as mother carry the baby.
Wonder! if a ship is called a boy, what is the best description to add on this.
Wonder! If Lloyd’s List decided on “IT” there must be a reason for this preferance. Does this have anything to do with the swaying of the ship, or the changing and open cultural world that we are now living in?
great article, sad to see the tradition fading away…
I agree, sad to see traditions are fading away. From the time ships were invented to now, if a ship was associated as a female, for all the reasons we could see, so be it, as a sign of respect to our previous generations.. Why do we need to change everything… ??