The Guardian

And all who sail in … it? The language row over 'female' ships

The Royal Navy is committed to the tradition, but academics say it could betray a patriarchal view
The Royal Navy says it has no plans to change its tradition of referring to its ships as ‘she’. Photograph: SSPL/Getty

Anachronistic and patronising, or benign nautical tradition? The appropriateness of referring to ships as “she” has been challenged by the Scottish Maritime Museum’s decision this week to adopt gender-neutral signage for its vessels.

The move has provoked debate over when, if ever, it is acceptable to use the feminine pronoun for inanimate things.

It’s not just ships. Cars are often personified as female. How many male owners enjoy “taking her for a spin?” One well-known haulage company, Eddie Stobart, gives its trucks

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