Somebody living in the People’s Republic of Cloud Cuckoo Land has objected to the fact that ships are referred to as “she”. Because it’s sexist, innit. In fact, the English language gets the word “ship” from the Middle High German “schiff”, a neuter noun and the feminine designation, lost in the mists of antiquity, was perhaps derived originally from the idea that a ship was a motherly place of safety for those in peril on the sea. Weathering the storm, binding the restless wave and whatnot. This romantic tradition is changing. Since 2002, Lloyd’s List, stuffed to the gunwhales with actuaries who found accountancy too exciting and which began reporting shipping news in 1734, has referred to all vessels as “it” and many news sources have adopted this new convention.
Happily, most mariners have not.
It’s a wee bit sad as little snowflakes whimper when gender neutral identity is put before common sense. It was thus immensely cheering to catch a glimpse the other day of a piece in the Royal Navy News, the staple read of the jolly Jack Tar and having the useful secondary function of being of some use in the bathroom afterwards.
With no apology to the anonymous seafarer who wrote it, I have plagiarised it shamelessly and tidied up the grammar, spelling and punctuation, while adding a few clips and snippets of my own.
The Royal Navy is proud of its new fleet of Type 45 destroyers. Having initially named the first two ships HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, the Naming Committee has, after intense pressure from Brussels , renamed them HMS Cautious and HMS Prudence. The next five ships are to be named HMS Empathy, HMS Circumspect, HMS Nervous, HMS Timorous and HMS Apologist. Costing £850 million each, they meet the needs of the 21st century and comply with the very latest employment, equality, health & safety and human rights laws. The new user-friendly crow’s nest comes equipped with wheelchair access. Live ammunition has been replaced with paintballs to reduce the risk of anyone getting hurt and to cut down on the number of compensation claims. Stress counsellors and lawyers will be on duty twenty-four hours a day and each ship will have its own on-board industrial tribunal. The crew will be 50/50 men and women, carefully balanced in accordance with the latest Home Office directives on race, gender, sexual orientation and disability. Sailors will only have to work a maximum of 37 hours a week in line with Brussels Health & Safety rules, including during wartime. All the vessels will be equipped with a maternity ward and nursery, situated on the same deck as the LGBTQ Disco, open every night, cross-dressing optional. Tobacco will be banned throughout the ship, but cannabis will be allowed in the wardroom and messes. The Royal Navy is eager to shed its traditional reputation for “rum, sodomy and the lash”; the rum ration is to be replaced by sparkling water from a reputable English spring. Saluting officers is to be abolished because it is elitist and is to be replaced by the more informal, “Hello Sailor”. All information on notice boards will be printed in thirty-seven different languages as well as Braille. Elevators will all be equipped with a Shabbat button and all food on board is both kosher and halal. Crew will now no longer be required to ask permission to grow beards or moustaches; this rule applies equally to women crew members. The MoD is working on a new “non-specific” flag because the White Ensign is considered to be offensive to ethnic minorities. The newly renamed HMS Cautious is due to be commissioned soon in a ceremony where Captain al-Hook from the Finsbury Park Mosque will break a petrol bomb over her bow. She will gently glide into the water as the Royal Marines Band plays “In the Navy” by the Village People. Her first deployment will be to escort boat loads of illegal immigrants across the Channel to beaches on England’s south coast. The Prime Minister said, “While these ships reflect the very latest in modern thinking, they are also capable of being upgraded to comply with any new legislation coming out of Brussels .” Her (or should it be ‘their’) final words were, “Britannia waives the rules.”
Kirk: ‘Maintain warp 9, Mr Sulu.’
Scotty: ‘I’ve given her all she’s got, Captain, an’ I cannae give her no more.’