Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style

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ships as "she", additional points[edit]

I have read through the archive of this issue here:

I have a point that was not addressed in that article that I beleive bears relevance for the wikipedia policy on maintaining the distracting feature of the use of "she" when decribing watercraft (ships, boats... especially naval vessels).

When I read "she" while reading about global (foreign) naval vessels, I am profoundly distracted by the yoking of the topic under examination (a foreign naval vessel) with the British naval tradition from which the tradition of calling ocean going vessels "she" originates.

This is offensive to those of us who use the now globally common English language but do not share in any sense any heritage with the British naval tradition.

It seems important to me for English language users to be able to feel comfortable and not distracted when reading information about various global naval commands. The immediate introduction of British naval traditions that occurs in the use of "she" to decribe (or in reference to) naval vessels is inherrently offensive/unacceptable to any readers (which must be most) who do not welcome the British naval tradtion.

Sdkenned (talk) 23:50, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure I agree with your specific point, Sdkenned. IMO, people who learn languages need to approach them with an understanding that there may be things about them than seem unfamiliar or weird. I don't mean this in a chauvenistic way, because I am myself a person who learns languages.
I agree, though, that we should move into the 21st century and realise that ships don't have a gender. It's a quaint thing to read in an old book, maybe. Formerip (talk) 00:04, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

The point I am trying to make is that the convention of using "she" to describe seafaring vessels, especially naval vessels, is inseparable from the naval tradition from which it hails. The convention is not specific to the language itself, but rather the British naval tradition. I concede that, historically, the English language and the British naval tradition share a common heritage, but the English language has blossomed and become international in scope of use. It may have originated among the English, but today it transends its national and ethnic origins.
Another aspect of my point is simply this: the use of the English language does not imply allegiance or affiliation with English military tradition. The use of the word "she" to describe seafaring vessels is improper considering the English language's international scope (itself an undeniably great triumph for the language and culture, no doubt). This is particularly harmful to readers when reading about non-British naval commands.
I am making this point as entirely distinct from any language rules relating to gender. This was why I referenced the talk archive linked above: the gender point was already brought up, but the discussion was insufficient to change the use of the convention on wikipedia. The point I bring up is entirely different from the gender issue (which may be arguable in itself in a number of ways, and I intend to make no indication of my thoughts on that here at all, so as not to confuse the point I am making).

Sdkenned (talk) 02:51, 28 June 2014 (UTC)

You are incorrect to attribute the "she" convention to solely naval tradition: it applies to civilian ships as well. And while you object to using the feminine pronoun, you have not suggested which of the alternate pronouns ("he" or "it") should be used. Nor have you explained just how it is you find "she" so offensive. Prior discussion has been (as you note) "insufficient to change the use of the convention on wikipedia"; an unsupported allegation of a hyper-sensitivity is unlikely to make any headway at all. Even if that point were to be granted, it is still the case (per WP:Advocacy) that "Wikipedia is not a venue to Right Great Wrongs". Or even to raise the visibility of an issue. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:19, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
When I hear "she" instead of "it" in an article, I get the feeling it was written by seamen for seamen, rather than by a "regular person" for "general audiences". It's a jargon thing, not a gender thing, for me. But I'm only very slightly outraged, because it makes articles sound slightly like old sea captain's tales, and those are generally fun.
But it's a slippery slope to writing Captain Kidd in pirate language and Suidae in Pig Latin. InedibleHulk (talk) 23:00, June 28, 2014 (UTC)
An argument likely to gain more traction is that the AP Stylebook recommends using 'it' rather than 'she'. The best way to convince Wikipedians about anything is to survey the reliable sources, in this case major style book and guides. Pburka (talk) 23:13, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
Pretty much every style guide recommends "it". The only exception I am aware of is the style guide for the US Navy. Oh, and Wikipedia. Formerip (talk) 23:38, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
The Economist Style Guide (ISBN 9781846686061) states succinctly
  • "ship A ship is feminine."
The Times Style and Usage Guide (ISBN 0007145055)states
  • "ships . . . Ships should generally be feminine; thus she and her rather than it and its."
  • The Oxford Guide to Style (ISBN 0198691750)states
  • "Personification is traditional, though sexist, in the case of ships and other craft."
  • In The Oxford Style Manual (ISBN 9780199657223) (i.e.New Hart's Rules) this becomes
  • "The names of ships and other craft are traditionally female . Formerly, it was also conventional to use she of nations and cities in prose contexts, but this is old -fashioned and the impersonal pronoun is now used: "Britain decimalized its (not her) currency in 1971." This seems to imply that the use of she for ships is not old-fashioned.
Personally, I have not formed an opinion on the matter, but I thought this might help the discussion. --Boson (talk) 14:56, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
The Economist and Times style guide citations are something I would be cautious about. Are you looking at recent editions? I don't have access to either, but spot-checking articles in those publications suggests that they actually use neuter: [1] [2]
Any, of course, describing something as "traditional" is not actually a recommendation. Formerip (talk) 16:36, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
The Economist Style Guide I am looking at is the 10th edition from 2012.
The Times Style and Usage Guide was first published in 2003.
I have no idea how consistently the two publication adhere to their own style guides, but a quick Google also find hits for she/her:
--Boson (talk) 01:01, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
. . . and National Geographic Style Guide has:
* "Ships and boats have traditionally been referred to as feminine (she), though it is now becoming common. Do not mix she and it in the same article."
--Boson (talk) 20:35, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Oh how I love the reasoning that spurred me to originally raise this issue, but the point relating to the authoritative style guides is perhaps the best support for making this change. I am glad such exists.
In reply to J. Johnson:
To be clear, I find the introduction of the British seafaring tradition into my awareness when reading about non-British naval forces or any other seafaring vessels as offensive. If support for this issue is what you seek, you may find such in the concept of microaggressive assaults: You call my awareness of the issue hyper-sensitive. What makes my awareness of this issue “hyper-sensitivity” and not simply “awareness”?
Removing the British seafaring tradition from the language conventions used in wikipedia pages devoted to non-British naval hardware would hardly seem an effort to "Right a Great Wrong" but rather to avoid the perpetuation of insult caused by the use of language conventions emanating from the British maritime tradition against English language readers who do not share heritage or allegiance with said tradition.
Sdkenned (talk) 23:45, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
What "insult"? Who do take to be microaggressing whom? Are you simply anti-British? Or anti-feminine? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:20, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I use the term insult here to refer to offense, not shared between any specific individuals (such as you or I), but inherent in the language convention I am taking issue with. The microagression is inherent in the language convention. I make no acusation of specific intent to harm, only casual use of harmful language conventions that the authors (or page maintainers) may not be conscious of as being harmful. I am anti- only cultural bias where such is inappropriate, such as I have outlined above.
Sdkenned (talk) 00:47, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Does anyone have a source for the <redacted> assertion that the use of the feminine pronoun for vessels is even related to (actually, "British" is clearly wrong, also) English naval tradition? For that matter, does anyone have a source of any other tradition for gendering vessels in non-gendered langauges? (Which may only be English.) I know it's wrong to suggest we should continue to use the feminine pronoun because it offends Sdkenned, but it is tempting, because there is so much illogical reasoning in his "insult" (to use the word as he defined it above). — Arthur Rubin (talk) 00:55, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
A relevant article in the Telegraph from 2002 An excerpt:

SHIPS should no longer be called "she", the industry's newspaper has decreed.

Lloyd's List, the 268-year-old publication which claims to be the world's oldest daily newspaper, is to abandon centuries of seafaring tradition by calling all vessels "it".

The reason, explained in yesterday's issue, is to bring the paper "into line with most other reputable international business titles".

Julian Bray, the editor, wrote: "The shipping industry does need to move forward if it is not to risk becoming a backwater of international business. I decided that it was time to catch up with the rest of the world, and most other news organisations refer to ships as neuter.

"They are maritime real estate. The world moves on. I can see why 'she' would suit a magnificent cruise liner but to a rusting old hulk it could be rather offensive. [... ...]

Sdkenned (talk) 01:24, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

You didn't answer my question. Let me rephrase: What evidence do you have that the "tradition" that ships are referred to as "she" relate to English (not British; it precedes the absorption of Scotland and Wales into Britain, unless, perhaps, it precedes the creation of the kingdom of England...) naval tradition. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 04:10, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
It's very insulting and sexist. Some navies have specifically excluded its use, but some persist where the old boys' network is still unchallenged. Proponents will fight to the death on en.WP to retain "she/her". What I do say to them is that if using it, just as a matter of general style, avoid banging it in four times in a single paragraph—this I have seen quite a lot, particularly in introductory sections. Rotate "she/her" with "the vessel", "the ship", and [name of ship]. Rotating the pronoun with other referents should be the norm whether using the sexist or gender-neutral version. Tony (talk) 04:34, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I don't know whether you (Tony1) are serious, but, after reading the 2004 discussion, it's clear that Sdkenned is not. If he/she perceives insult, it is because of a misconception. The previous discussion (1) mentions ships being feminine dating back to 500 BC, and (2) states that ships were "originally" (scare quotes) masculine in English, but became universally feminine by the 16th century. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 05:27, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I've heard some feminists go over the top about the smallest thing but I've yet to hear anybody say that calling ships "she" is sexist or insulting (assuming the ship is not a rusting hulk). Do you have any real world references about people feeling strongly insulted to help us make this judgement call? But I do like the Telegraph reference above: "Ships have a soul. If I remember my history, they are female because originally the ship was the only woman allowed at sea and was treated with deference and respect - and because they are expensive."  Stepho  talk  05:41, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
As a rusting hulk, I'm a little insulted. We can't stay 21 forever. InedibleHulk (talk) 05:48, June 29, 2014 (UTC)
Arthur, 500 BC, you say? Amazing how far back sexism goes. Yes, I'm deadly serious. And grammatical gender has been starkly different in English from that in other languages for the past 800 years or more. I don't see a feminine form of "the" used before "ship", and in sexist usage, "she" refers to vessel, ship, boat, all of them. Tony (talk) 09:43, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Pushing Formerip's proposal into a subsection. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:14, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
So you (Sdkenned) object to calling a ship "she" because that comes from English seafaring tradition, but you don't mind "it" if that comes from international business practice? I am more insulted that we shoud let international business shape our language.
I have yet to see how "she" is insulting. Just what are folks reading into this? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:18, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
As has been thoroughly indicated all over this page, based on the neuter and inanimate identity (or nature) of maritime vessels, using a feminine pronoun violates the ordinary standards (or rules) of this language. For the wider world of English language users, the use of "she" to describe a seafaring vessel seems abnormal and unnatural. That the English language using sectors of international maritime trade do not use "she" to describe its vessels anylonger is not the source of my preference for the use of the neuter pronoun "it" to refer to these machines. The ordinary rules of the language are the source of my prefernece. It is an exceptional behavior to label a ship "she", in my opinion, for the greater English langaue using population. Commerce and international trade compose the second of two primary arms of global (human) maritime activity (the militaries comprise the other arm). That institutional publications of international trade, even those specifically rooted in the same national/ethnic tradition that developed the custom we are examining presently, now publicly and formally have dicontinued the use of "she" to refer to maritime vessels in their publications, only supports my position.Sdkenned (talk) 23:48, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  How is "using a feminine pronoun violates the ordinary standards (or rules) of this language", and "seems abnormal and unnatural"? What rule? The one that you have not yet got in place? Or the new one announced by "institutional publications of international trade"?
  You have said repeatedly that use of "she" is offensive, and is "perpetuation of insult", but you have yet to explain how this is so. Are you simply anti-British? Or do you hold that feminine pronouns can only be applied to things that are intrinsically feminine? Do you feel that applying "she" to objects that are big, dumpy, gray, and militaristic thereby "objectifies" all female persons as big, dumpy, gray, and militaristic? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:29, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
In the English language, there are three third person singular pronouns: he, she and it. 'He' is used to refer to persons of the male sex, 'she' is used to refer to persons of the female sex, 'it' is used to refer to things with no sex. These are English basics. You may not like the word 'rules' to identify these differences, but then you may choose another word. A range of professional style guides also indicate the propriety of the use of 'it' to refer to these seafaring mechanisms.Sdkenned (talk) 01:02, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) You'll notice, if you read closely, that Sdkenned is not taking a politically correct stance with that comment, but only noting how it is uncommon—even somewhat unnatural—amongst 21st-century English-speaking laypersons to refer to inanimate objects with a non-neuter pronoun. As Wikipedia is aimed at a general audience it would make sense to write to that audience, when we can, in the language they are most familiar with. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 01:03, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
I don't agree that the use of neutered pronouns is so common as to constitute a rule, nor have I seen how the still common use of feminine pronouns constitutes an offense or insult. Sdkenned's assertion — that the usage in English of using 'he' and 'she' to refer to persons of male or female sex constitutes a rule — is false, as there is no rule unless we agree to adopt one. Perhaps he confuses the so-called "rules" given in grammer books as guidelines to clear communication, but there has been no issue raised that using 'she' confuses communication, only that it is offensive. Sdkenned's assertion also implies that in being used in some cases to refer to persons, he/she can apply only to persons. He (she? it??) seems unaware of grammatical gender ("he" may have missed User:John's mention of this on the 29th), where gender has no relation to any biological aspects. (E.g., in German "Mãdchen" is neuter. Is that an insult to young women?) ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:39, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) J. Johnson (JJ): English has not had grammatical gender since the 14th century, and when it did "ship" was of the neuter gender. Referring to ships with "she" rather than "it" is not done for grammatical purposes. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:08, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
It is indeed a rule that in English we generally only use "he" and "she" to refer to male and female people, respectively. English does not generally do grammatical gender in the modern era. The ships thing we are talking about is an exception to that, maybe the last one remaining, and it is seemingly dying out. Do we want to preserve it here? --John (talk) 22:58, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
I think you've forgotten that "ship" was not grammatically feminine when the language still retained grammatical gender, so the use of the feminine is unrelated to that, not "maybe the last one remaining". "Grammatical gender" is a red herring. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:12, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
I'm sure you must mean "red hering". Formerip (talk) 23:19, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
(@Sdkenned:) Why are we talking about the "rules" of the English language like it's something codefied? English doesn't have "rules", although what does exist is a set of guidelines for British speakers which encourage and facilitate better mutual understanding, and a set of guidelines for American speakers which encourage and facilitate better mutual understanding. If English had "rules", we wouldn't have nonsense like "protein" and "piece". When people say that there is a "rule" that he always refers to animate masculine beings, they're taking the concept of languages too darn seriously. If we cannot have idiomatic expressions like "she sailed from London to New York", it's strange that we also have expressions such as "Los Angeles is the City of Angels". The English language is not a technical document, and it isn't an object oriented language like C++, flexibility is an inherent part of this language. --benlisquareTCE 06:52, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Also, why do we refer to God as "He" in English, in general when dealing with Abrahamic religions? In Islam, Allah is gender neutral, however in plenty of various English translations of the Quran, "He" is used to refer to God. The English language isn't supposed to make sense, stop trying to make sense out of it. --benlisquareTCE 06:56, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
How we generally use "he/she/it" is not a rule, but a usage. But Sdkenned's original and principal objection is not violation of some "rule" (or even a standard or guideline), but of offense and insult. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:48, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Offense to whom? --benlisquareTCE 06:54, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Good question. Sdkenned said "offensive to those of us who use the now globally common English language but do not share in any sense any heritage with the British naval tradition." Tony keeps saying it's sexist (glaringly sexist according to John), but I haven't seen how that works out, or whether it offends males or females. Perhaps just people of feminine character? Lacking any explanation your guess is probably as good as mine. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:07, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
[ec] P.S. In not sharing any heritage with international business, I will be offended if I am required to conform to its practices regarding pronouns. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:37, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
"Perhaps just people of feminine character?": I think you've revealed quite a bit with that remark. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 21:14, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
I was under the impression that the original poster's primary argument was that such usage was confusing for non-native English speakers who learn the English language based on its "rules" (i.e. that "she" can only be used for animate female nouns), and it was only much later that he switched his rhetoric to "it's offensive" or "British naval imperialism is murderous". That's precisely why I was confused as to why the "rules" of English are being discussed in such detail within this section. I mean, are people also opposed to the lines "do yo chain hang low, do it wobble to da flo, does it shine in the light, is it platinum is it gold"? I can understand discussing whether or not it's offensive, but the whole "it doesn't fit in with English rules" business seems forced and desperate. --benlisquareTCE 07:45, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
Sdkenned's original complaint was not that using "she" was inherently sexist or any such, but that its origin in "British naval tradition" is offensive. In a follow-up comment he states that his point is "entirely distinct from any language rules relating to gender", and even "entirely different from the gender issue", which was discussed elsewhere. It looks like Sdkenned doesn't mention "the ordinary standards (or rules) of this language" until 23:48 30 June. This argument (and all the other others raised by other editors) seem to have crept into the void left where the OP failed to explain his primary objection. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:54, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
In other words: there are many objections to the use of "she" to refer to a ship. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:18, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
No, it means that the original objection is not only unsupported, but absurd, and so desperate it had to be replaced with the "rules of language" and "sexist" arguments. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:32, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
Which are valid arguments, and are the arguments that everyone else has been using everywhere else i n the discussion. The discussion very quickly ceased to be about what you're complaining about, and it appears you're using this "original argument" schtick to bury all the valid objections that have been brought up. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:06, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
The rationale for this discussion was that it raised a novel argument (the "insult" of British military tradition). Your statement that "there are many objections" is trivial: of course there are objections. The essential question is whether they are valid. The militaristic objection apparently is not valid. Burying it under all the other argumentation does not change that. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:36, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
"there are many objections" is not even remotely trivial. What is also not trivial is your attempt to bury all the other valid objections with hairsplitting wikilawyering. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:46, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Benlisquare, you are posting in the talk page of the Manual of Style of Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia. If you do not believe in the value of having central guidance on usage on our project, why would you bother to post here? What do you think a Manual of Style is for? --John (talk) 10:28, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
  • If you have a point, say it directly. There's no need for the cryptics. --benlisquareTCE 21:38, 4 July 2014 (UTC)


  • Is there any good reason to continue allowing (we do not insist) editors to call ships "she"? It does seem glaringly sexist and rather old-fashioned. --John (talk) 10:13, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I don't think so.
Proposal. Change the guideline to read:

Ships should be referred to using neuter pronouns ("it", "its") and not feminine pronouns ("she", "her", "hers").

Formerip (talk) 10:33, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I see good-faith arguments both that using "she" and using "it" are sexist, and don't really consider either credible. I only see the common usage argument as potentially relevant. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 12:34, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
To be clear, the basis for the proposal would be common usage, that there exists a clear consensus in external style guides etc in favour of ships being neuter. For example, this is the advice given by the AP, Chicago and Guardian manuals. Formerip (talk) 13:54, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Support, with one thing to add. The rule that direct quotations are not rewordable should still take priority over this rule, as well as all other rules except the need to avoid foreign languages. Georgia guy (talk) 12:37, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose The fanatics currently running MoS just want to impose their view of the world on Wikipedia, whatever damage it does. As with the bird project, they will drive content creators away, fiddle around with enough articles to leave an inconsistent mess, and then move on to wreck something else rather than finish the job Jimfbleak - talk to me? 13:15, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Support eliminating quirky jargon. If this was ShipWiki, it'd be well and good. But we write for general audiences, the majority of which are landlubbers and use feminine pronouns for things with vaginas. InedibleHulk (talk) 13:49, June 29, 2014 (UTC)
To be clear, there IS no common usage and no consensus. This is English, neither the whim of the AP, Chicago and Guardian, nor their common dunghill from which they can crow their commandments on what is right or wrong or indeed preferable beyond the ambit of their pages and the imaginations of their writers and (worse) editors and hobbled readers. Style guides as the arbiters of acceptable English for the love of holiness! Just because Hemingway or James never wrote a word before checking with a style guide for clarity and correctness! If you wish to forbid whatever doesn't suit your acquired, mandated, or manufactured tastes and reactions, then stop and ask yourself whether you can do better than damning everything your kindergarten teacher didn't instil as quirky jargon, and why such wording once sounded good and natural. And even expressive, inspiring, or at least not quite insipid. And why the creativity of the inedible should rise no higher than personification of femininity as thing with feminine genitalia. JonRichfield (talk) 19:53, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
That's the opposite of clear. Rhetoric isn't highly valued here. Do you have anything germane to add to the discussion? --John (talk) 20:14, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
In maritime poetry, I have no problem with the moon, the mist or a manatee filling in for the female. But this is an encyclopedia, that's all. Fact-based. Plenty of room for debate on what symbolizes what. With a genital-based system, it's simple. Male, female and nothing.
My kindergarten teacher didn't instill anything about English in me, as far as I remember. That was truck time. InedibleHulk (talk) 23:01, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. "It" to refer to ships appears to be the standard approach, based on the evidence of other style guides presented above. I don't see any reason it depart from that standard. I'm not surprised to find that other style guides recommend "it" for ships, because whenever I run across "she" on Wikipedia it sounds extremely dated. Alternatively, I like the suggestion above of going for full-on pirate speak in all ship-related articles.--Trystan (talk) 14:26, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Support Though the experience that spurred my returning this issue to attention here does not appear to be well understood, the support for this change in policy offered in the 2002 article is compelling, as is the fact that most (if not all non-military) professional English language publications and style guides use the neuter "it".Sdkenned (talk) 14:55, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Support Using "she" for ships, rather than "it", is becoming increasingly archaic. Hence the change to "it" in prominent style guides and even in the shipping industry itself. It makes sense to use "it" for vehicles as this is the common English usage. Articles about ships should be aimed at a wide audience, not just sailors and maritime experts (who lose nothing sense-wise from this change). SFB 15:04, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment I have notified WikiProject Ships here since no-one else seems to have done.Nigel Ish (talk) 15:15, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose - I strongly oppose the ongoing efforts to strip the language of every aspect of its colour and poetry and reduce it to a dry logical formula. Moreover, a convention of this type has demonstrable practical value in that "it" can refer to anything referred to in a sentence, whereas "she" can rarely be mistaken for anything else in this context. As for the "insult" charge - some folks seem to spend their lives looking for something to feel insulted about; referring to ships as "she" might just as well be seen as complimentary. We currently have a rule that accommodates both preferences, in the same way that both American and British English are accommodated here, and that is the best approach for a project of this type IMO. Gatoclass (talk) 15:53, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Colour and poetry are cool, but there's a time and a place for it. Depending on that time and place, idioms, cliches and euphemisms can make very little sense (married to the sea, but sleeping with the fishes in Davy Jones' locker?) It's why plain English works best for mainstream publications.
If a sentence is ambiguous about what "it" is, it's just a matter of moving a word or calling it by noun or name. Same as anywhere. As for the sexism, I think it's marginally worse to say ships can't be women, but not nearly as bad as saying women can't be ships. About as silly as the manhole problem, though. InedibleHulk (talk) 16:18, June 29, 2014 (UTC)
Substituting "it" for "she" will inevitably lead to less clarity and more ambiguity in text, thus causing more difficulty and confusion for the reader. It's user-unfriendly. Gatoclass (talk) 04:19, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Do you have an example sentence where this would be true? I'm not seeing it, for instance, in HMCS Victoria (SSK 876). "It was named for...", "it was purchased from...", "it was the focus of...". All very straighforward, and leaves no doubt that we're talking about an inanimate object, not a female. InedibleHulk (talk) 15:34, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
  • Support The current practice is old-fashioned, does not follow modern sources, and is blatantly sexist. I know guys who call their car or their motor-bike "she" and it's always a particular sort of guy. As a modern encyclopaedia we should not attempt to imbue metal objects with grammatical femininity. --John (talk) 16:09, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose, for the present. Undoubtedly, common usage is moving towards 'it', but it is not there yet. External MOSs are not the same as common usage, and to some degree drive change - WP should not be on bandwagons. I believe that the common usage outside maritime circles is still mixed, if evolving. I would be happy, however, for WP:MOS to express a preference for neuter pronouns, though otherwise remain unaltered. (Sticks in the craw though. Davidships (talk) 16:19, 29 June 2014 (UTC))
  • Strong Oppose This appears to be the latest, in a seemingly never ending effort by the political correctness police to regulate language in a manner conducive to their world view. It brings to mind the old witticism "the voting will continue until the desired result is obtained." The existing guidelines are more than adequate in dealing with the controversy. For my own part the only thing I find offensive is the the lack of tolerance on the part of the PC pushers for tradition and cultural idiosyncrasies. The barely disguised contempt for the customs and language of "seamen, sailors and maritime enthusiasts" that I read above is profoundly disturbing. Out of curiosity, who do you think is contributing the vast bulk of ship related articles and content on Wikipedia? Further the suggestion that the use of gender specific pronouns is something traceable to the British Navy is risible. Many other countries and languages also use gender specific pronouns. In Russian, ships are almost always considered male and referred to as "He." There are historical records indicating the custom as far back as antiquity. -Ad Orientem (talk) 16:37, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
    • (Striking my earlier comment which in hindsight appears intemperate and excessively strident. I remain opposed however to any attempt to impose a politically correct speech code on Wikipedia. The day may come when there is some consensus to that end. However based on the many more thoughtful dissenting comments posted below, that day is clearly a ways off. -Ad Orientem (talk) 18:34, 2 July 2014 (UTC))
    • Do you speak Russian? --John (talk) 16:43, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • No, but I have friends and relations who do. The use of the male pronoun in Russian when referring to ships is fairly common knowledge in the maritime community. -Ad Orientem (talk) 16:49, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oh indeed, I am not disputing that; I read it in Tom Clancy and I have no reason to doubt it. The thing is that Russian, like German and French, uses grammatical gender, which English does not. I do not speak Russian, but in French it would be correct and indeed mandatory to say "Ma voiture, elle est en panne." (My car, she is broken down) because the noun "voiture" (car) is a feminine one. So in Russian, calling a ship "he" may not be that unusual. In English, it is, in fact I think it is unique as we do not normally employ grammatical gender at all. You are still free to oppose this proposal of course, but the Russian comparison isn't a very compelling rationale on the English Wikipedia, in my opinion. --John (talk) 16:58, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Hmmm. That's an interesting point. In the case of French and some of the other Romance Languages we may be talking about a language trait that is Latin based. Russian of course, is not a Latin based language, though that doesn't invalidate your point. I don't know enough about the nature of Russian pronouns to answer your comment, but I am going to ask some questions from people who are a bit more knowledgeable on the subject. Good catch! Broadly speaking though my oppose still stands. This is still another example of political correctness run amok. -Ad Orientem (talk) 17:23, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Nothing to do with that, here. Ships just don't have genders. It's a strange custom practiced by a minority group. If I was trying to be politically correct, I'd tolerate it. InedibleHulk (talk) 18:04, June 29, 2014 (UTC)
    • @Ad Orientem: I'm not really sure how you get to the conclusion that my comment above displays "barely disguised contempt" for sailors and maritime experts (enthusiasts was your term). You then suggest yourself that the ship editor population stems from this group – advising editors who are sailors and maritime experts to write for a non-specialist audience isn't insulting, it's what demanded by our shared manual of style. SFB 19:22, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
      • I tried not to bristle at that one too. I am not big-headed enough to call myself a ship "expert" but I have several dozen books on my shelf about naval history and I recognise editors here whose work I have helped copyedit or review for FA. Although I am against the current MoS and support the proposal to change it, I have done a lot of work across the project to enforce the current status quo. It is extremely common on quite developed ship articles to find a mixture of "it", "she", "its" and "her", which someone like me has to patiently regularise. It really isn't fair to characterise this discussion as being ship experts vs MoS geeks. The "only words" argument is true but it cuts both ways; the real thing for our readers is consistency within an article and ideally across the project regarding usage. The current status quo does not ensure that. --John (talk) 19:58, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • The barely disguised contempt for the customs and language of "seamen, sailors and maritime enthusiasts" that I read above is profoundly disturbing. Out of curiosity, who do you think is contributing the vast bulk of ship related articles and content on Wikipedia? Very well put Ad Orientum. To that one might add - who is likely to constitute the vast bulk of the readership for these articles? Surely it must also be maritime enthusiasts - and which convention would they be likely to prefer? Gatoclass (talk) 04:47, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

Support: Though I'm female and I don't view using female pronouns for ships, cars or any other vehicle as sexist (I don't necessarily see anything wrong with a boy or man who does, but rather usually see it as them following tradition or wording something in a way they grew up hearing), I've found it jarring and odd when coming across it (unless in relation to sailors or a way that seems appropriate, such as in a fictional story); I think I first came across it on Wikipedia at the Titanic (1997 film) article. And as can be seen, it's not currently used there. I would have replied earlier the previous hour, but I went looking into the Titanic (1997 film) edit history to see if I could find one of the couple of times that an editor attempted to use female pronouns for the RMS Titanic (for example, an editor once added such language to the lead), but I couldn't find a diff-link during my brief search; I'm not sure what years one or two editors attempted such wording, or what edit summary to look for to help locate an example, but I could have sworn it has not been too long since such wording was attempted there. Flyer22 (talk) 17:32, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

Strong oppose: Mainstream sources may be becoming more politically correct, but that's certainly not true in actual naval histories where you see generally see a mix of usages like those that Tony mentions above. Honestly don't care if any editor or reader is offended because there's no genuine context to be offended by; people need to take ownership over their own biases, prejudices and triggers. Please see the George Carlin routine "They're only words" for guidance.--Sturmvogel 66 (talk) 18:36, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

Support. Wikipedia is a generalist publication intended for a generalist audience. It seems clear that the dominant style among other generalist publications (newspapers, for example) overwhelmingly use the neuter pronoun when referring to ships. I don't have any strong feelings about 'she' being politically incorrect (whether sexist, imperialist, or something else). Rather it seems slightly archaic and likely to cause minor confusion among readers not familiar with the specialist terminology. Pburka (talk) 20:13, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

  • STRONGEST POSSIBLE OPPOSE per WP:SHE4SHIPS. Editors who write ship articles are at liberty to use the neuter pronoun should they wish, or the feminine (or masculine if writing about Russian vessels). Machinery has been female since time immemorial. No need to change for the politically correct brigade. Mjroots (talk) 20:45, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
    Citing the MOS in a discussion about changing the MOS is an odd argument. Are you claiming that Wikipedia editors can never change the MOS? Pburka (talk) 20:51, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
    • @Pburka: No, consensus can change. I was pointing out that this had been discussed before and that there was a relevant section in the MOS dealing with this issue. 06:58, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    Citing the MOS in a discussion about changing the MOS is an odd argument. Also is (or masculine if writing about Russian vessels) intended to be humorous? --John (talk) 21:07, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
    • @John: No, my comment about Russian vessels was serious. Should a Russian editor with a good level of English write an article on a Russian vessel using the masculine gender, that would be acceptable. I would defend that style against any attempt to change to the neuter or feminine gender. Mjroots (talk) 06:58, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
      • I see. Would you accept "she" for a car from a French speaker with a good level of English? Would you accept "it" for a prominent female politician, from a Setswana speaker with a good level of English? Would you accept "her moved" instead of "she moved" from a Basque speaker with a good level of English? How far would you want to take this? --John (talk) 08:12, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
We wouldn't have to change it. "As with all optional styles, articles should not be changed from one style to another unless there is a substantial reason to do so." Of course, both sides have substantial reasons here, so there might be a practical problem, but it's all "legal".
Whether it jives with "Avoid ambiguity, jargon, and vague or unnecessarily complex wording" is another story, if we're playing the MoS against itself. InedibleHulk (talk) 21:08, June 29, 2014 (UTC)
Isn't the purpose of this proposal to do just that? As I read it, if accepted all ship articles would be forced to use the neuter gender. Completely against well-established consensus that the issue isn't forced. Mjroots (talk) 06:58, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, I meant notwithstanding this outcome. "She" is still ambiguous, jargony and vague. A substantial reason to switch styles. InedibleHulk (talk) 15:27, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Is this not just a vestige of the days when most of our nouns had gender, as other languages do? By the way, just because nouns have "gender" in other languages doesn't necessarily mean that those nouns are perceived to actually have gender (see, for example, the French word for "clitoris". It is "masculine"!). My understanding is that languages have gender because it adds a certain precision to communication. Anyone who has spoken, say, French, and, then, not used the proper pronoun will, almost inevitably, confuse the person being spoken to. Anyway, I think English has a wonderful history, and I'm not in favor of forcing its change for the sake of misunderstanding about what is and is not sexist. (talk) 21:40, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
It may be useful to note that most non-military publications have made this change, including maritime-industry specific publications (Lloyd's was noted in a article). Another article exists here. To keep the convention prevalent here is to yoke wikipedia to the prevalent institution that maintains the convention today: the British Navy. Sdkenned (talk) 21:54, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose mandating this in MOS; the MOS says "use she or it, but be consistent within the article", and this is entirely in keeping with how I see both specialist and generalist writing and speech doing it. The neuter form may be growing in relative popularity, but there's a lot of "she" still around, with both forms often used interchangeably by the same person.
Demanding our editors not use a form that is still widespread is an unusually heavy-handed and prescriptive use of the manual of style; I don't see what benefit the readers would get from it. I am also somewhat unconvinced by the claim that this is solely a British (and solely naval) thing being imposed on other maritime contexts. Andrew Gray (talk) 22:16, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Wikipedia should avoid eccentricity in its use of language. Mainstream 21st century English usage is to avoid using gendered pronouns for things that do not have an inherent gender. You can regret that if you like, but unless you can mount an argument that it isn't true then I think you've failed to make any sort of case that Wikipedia shouldn't just do what is done generally.
It is true that "it's sexist", while a valid opinion, is a weak argument here on its own. But I think it is worse still to argue on the basis of resisting "political correctness". That really ought to be discounted as completely invalid. I don't really know, but I do find it plausible that the back-story to all this is a battle between feminists and people who write letters to the Daily Telegraph, ending twenty years ago with a victory to the feminists. But whether you think that was the right outcome or not is irrelevant now, so long as it was the outcome. Personally, I was never much of a fan of the Harrying of the North, but I've long since given up objecting to the use of English words with a Norman French origin on Leeds street signs. Formerip (talk) 22:17, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I simply don't agree with the position that "mainstream English usage" is to predominantly and deliberately use "it". It may be more common than "she" - sixty-forty, perhaps - but I firmly believe that overall, the language accepts both as valid uses in the same way it accepts serial and non-serial commas as valid uses. (As an aside, I work in an environment where we frequently discuss ships - and pretty much everyone I encounter doesn't even think about what form they use, using either as it seems natural. I'm pretty sure I've seen both on documents. Tempted to keep a one-week tally now...)
Perhaps this is best seen as a dialect use - but our answer to other local or contextual quirks is to permit them but encourage internal consistency. Why are we so keen to shut this one down and mandate it not be used? Andrew Gray (talk) 22:32, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure if "dialect" is the right term, but Wikipedia normally allows, with some exceptions, for different national varieties of English. It doesn't normally allow us to use dialect. I can't recall when I last heard "she" for a ship anywhere. Maybe it's different if your work is to do with ships, but I think 60-40 has to be wildly optimistic. In any case, what matters is not everyday usage but usage in published English, where I think it is very hard to deny that "she" has become marginal at best. Maybe it retains some sort of sub-cultural currency, I don't know, but that also is not what's relevant for us. Formerip (talk) 23:03, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

  • Oppose Nobody has shown that readers are truly insulted, nor has it been shown that this is sexist. Quaint and old fashioned maybe but English WP should reflect English usage of the real world which allows both "she" and "it" (and occasionally "he"). This is political correctness where it is not needed.  Stepho  talk  23:05, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Occasionally he? --John (talk) 23:30, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
  • German Battleship Bismarck is a male ship, and is sometimes referred to as male in English literature. His crew also referred to Bismarck as masculine, however this relates to the German language, not English. --benlisquareTCE 05:00, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • You seem confused. Our article refers to the ship as "she". Are you for or against this? I have read hundreds of books on naval matters in English and I have never seen one that uses "he" to refer to ships. If you genuinely have, can you name one? --John (talk) 07:47, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Theodore Tugboat is a dude. InedibleHulk (talk) 13:06, July 2, 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose in general, but let's have some common sense exceptions too. If I'm talking about a ship from the turn of the 20th century, I'm probably going to use "her". If I'm talking about, say, the Exxon Valdez, it's going to be "it". We should use the language that the sources that document the ship typically use, and as noted more often ships are gender neutral, but they weren't always. --MASEM (t) 23:13, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
    When writing about the Santa María, do you recommend 15th century Spanish or 15th century English? Using the vernacular of the era is clearly an undesirable policy. Pburka (talk) 23:45, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
    What would be the difference, once we're talking the English language version? Spot checks show that that ship was still a "she". And we use this type of decision making all the time in considering articles that have potential national ties, we'd consider which approach to use, I see no reason that we allow the era of a ship to decide this. Of course, if it's not readily clear, I'd accept defaulting to "it". --MASEM (t) 00:08, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment. I don't buy either the argument that "she" is sexist (what is the insult supposed to be?) nor that "it" is "political correctness run amok"—in everyday speech the vast majority of speakers use "it" and find "she" stands out as an affectation (this tendency is reflected in the cited style guides). As Wikipedia aims at a general audience, I think editors should think long and hard before using "she" for ships, but I'm not sure mandating it is the most effective solution—it's aggressive and breeds ill will. I'd prefer to see a wording that prefers "it" to "she", and I think over time "she" will fade on its own—as Flyer22 has pointed out, it has already disappeared from Titanic without a fight. For example: Ships should be referred to using neutral forms ("it", "its"); feminine forms ("she", "her", "hers") are acceptable, though becoming less so in common usage. Each article should be internally consistent and employ one or the other exclusively. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 00:25, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Per Sturmvogel and Mjroots, as well as opposition to adding yet another rule. Using she or it should be up to the writers. Besides, how many times are going to discuss this exact topic? Give it a rest. Manxruler (talk) 11:56, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Talk sense and talk English. Treat rules with enough respect to reserve them for constructive functions. If persons whose literacy is so limited that they want to insist on forbidding verbal modes unfamiliar to themselves, defining English as being nothing but what their mommies read to them, as the inevitable speech of the future and the natural speech of the present and the speech that the past yearned for, then let them first tidy up Chaucer, Shakespeare, Swift, Dodgson, Galton, Maxwell, Kingsley, Twain, de Hartog, and Tolkien among a few hundred others, after which they can come back and show us how silly we must be to use figures of speech unfamiliar to them and that therefore must be unfamiliar to everyone else as well and accordingly rightly doomed. JonRichfield (talk) 19:27, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose: Wikipedia is not the place to WP:RIGHTGREATWRONGS. If there is an injustice in the world, attempts to solve it should begin elsewhere. Wikipedia only follows the accepted usages in pre-existing literature. --benlisquareTCE 04:22, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose I've been up for damn near 22 hours, and can hardly see the the screen clearly, yet alone think clearly, but I for one see no reason forcible remove an option for female pronouns just to observe a politically correct position. On top of that observation, morale is an factor here too: the less wiggle room people have to get creative in the articles here the greater the odds are that they will stop editing or worse retire. That doesn't work to anyone's advantage, says I. TomStar81 (Talk) 06:58, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
...And as an added point I have to wonder why Sdkenned a user who has maybe fifty edits on his contribution history has suddenly opted to start a MoS changing drive. I mean no offense here, but unto my experience that kind of behavior is usually the sign of a sock puppet. Food for thought. TomStar81 (Talk) 07:05, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose, vehemently!. Feminine pronouns for ships are traditional English usage. Neuter pronouns are obviously more logical and correcting them may not always be warranted, but any attempt to label them as "preferred", let alone to mandate them, should be rejected as a nonsensical bit of political correctness. Pashley (talk) 14:44, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. US female here, with feminist and maritime background. In practice, moving from the pronoun "it" to the pronoun "she" is a way to express affection and a personal appreciation (or dismay) regarding the characteristics of a vessel. Anthropomorphism is a useful way to describe the idiosyncracies of how a particular vessel responds. (We would most likely find a preference for the pronoun "he" in vessels with female crews, but even today, predominantly female crews are a far less common situation.) Djembayz (talk) 13:33, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes! (I was trying to formulate that!) Those who dismiss the close ties of sailor and vessel (at least pre-mechanization) disrespect the history of those who have gone to sea. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:17, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
Affections, personal appreciations, idiosyncratic writing and respect have no place here. Just the facts.InedibleHulk (talk) 23:28, July 8, 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose per my comment below in the "Kinder, gentler proposal" section. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 13:43, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose - basically per Sturmvogel and others before. As I have said elsewhere, if you want an article to use a given form (whether it be it versus she or a given national variety of English), you are free to write those articles. But please don't force those of us who prefer to do things one way to conform to your biases. Honestly, this needs to be added to WP:PERENNIAL and LAME. Parsecboy (talk) 23:37, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support, except of course inside quotations where an original "she"/"her" would be retained. The numerous arguments above that boil down to "if you're not a regular ship editor, you can't have an opinion" are WP:OWN nonsense and have to be disregarded as a matter of policy by whoever closes this, just as this argument always is (note that it was a primary failed argument against down-casing common names of bird species, and virtually every other style squabble where some wikiproject tries to assert control over style in "their" articles based on some external, jargonistic preference that is not adhered to in general-audience publications. The important facts here are that most current style and writing sources do not recommend feminine here, and of those that label it "traditional" some also label it sexit. WP does not do sexist things on purpose, especially not to satisfy some WP:specialist style fallacy. Furthermore, as noted, the feminization practice is peculiar to the British (and descended, e.g. US) naval traditions, so application of it beyond cases taht directly pertain to such navies is incorrect anyway.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  17:53, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
The problem with this argument being 1) there is no demonstration of how using "she" is sexist, and 2) the original objection raised in this discussion was not at all about sexism, or even gender, but about an association with "British military tradition". ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:36, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
The greater problem with this argument is that in order to bypass the MoS an editor can throw quotation marks around the entire article body since a good 99% of whats in US based ship articles is copied verbatim - include the shes - from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, or DANFS for short. Your own solution would be used against you. Then there's the presence of WP:IAR, which I would expect would be used liberally to bypass this argument whenever an editor gets a chance. TomStar81 (Talk) 22:53, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
Uh ... copyright infringement is pretty illegal. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:01, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
It would be ...f it weren't for the fact that DANFS is a US government funded operation, and therefore wholly in the public domain. In point of fact the reason why so many US ships of all types use she in their articles space is that they were directly copy/pasted from their corresponding DANFS entries. For this reason then this solution wouldn't work, as I've said the she camp could bypass it by quoting the entire article, and on WP:V and WP:RS grounds the she could have legitimate grounds to remain in an article. In this specific case, you'd have to come up with a different approach otherwise it'll be undermined from a source perspective. TomStar81 (Talk) 01:29, 10 July 2014 (UTC)

A much gentler proposal[edit]

Politically, that proposal was dead in the water before it began, and has immensely damaged the cause of a more modern approach. I can't imagine why you thought it had any chance, and yes, the luddite males are out in full force, SHOUTING their anger. [But I do find the shouting offensive.] Tony (talk) 09:11, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

Aside from the retro-problem of instantly rendering hundreds of articles non-compliant, a more gradual move would stand a greater chance of success, and <sigh> would be more inclusive. It would go in the right direction, given the urgency of the gender issue on WMF sites.


Whether ships should be referred to using gender-neutral pronouns ("it", "its") or feminine pronouns ("she", "her", "hers") is a matter of controversy disagreement on Wikipedia. The gender-neutral form is preferred, though both forms are acceptable. Editors should not change the form in existing articles without consensus on the talkpage.

  • Support as proposer. Tony (talk) 03:49, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: I support the spirit but not the letter—"controversy" is drama-talk. I'm also fairly confident that a natural switch to neuter pronouns is merely a matter of time, but one that will be impeded by giving people the idea they should be choosing sides in the melodrama "controversy".
    I don't mind replacing "controversy" with "disagreement"; would that meet with your approval? Tony (talk) 06:59, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    I'd accept "disagreement". Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 07:30, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Support either. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 08:01, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    • Actually, I can't support. The disagreement is not between the two---nobody claims the neuter is unacceptable, or that the feminine should be preferred. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 08:51, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
      • I'm very confused, now. Tony (talk) 09:11, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
        • Whether the neuter is acceptable or not is not disputed. The dispute is entirely over the acceptability of the feminine—whether it's equally acceptable as, or less acceptable than, the neuter, but definitely not if it's more acceptable than the neuter. We should have a wording that tells us the neuter is the default, while the feminine is an acceptable alternative—at least until it ceases to be accaptable, a day that's well on its way. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 22:22, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
          • I'd say the feminine, as the traditional English usage, is obviously acceptable. Whether the more logical neuter is also acceptable is subject to debate. I'd say 'yes' but consider any suggestion that it be preferred absurd. Pashley (talk) 14:59, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Preferred will only embolden the "preferred" party to try and impose their preference, leading to wikidrama. Also, it's a slippery slope. Gatoclass (talk) 08:14, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose, echoing Gatoclass' thoughts. InedibleHulk (talk) 15:39, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose: Acts as a springboard for partisan activists to wedge their influence into articles. Activist movements have always occurred in gradual increments, and there is no reason to assume that this won't be an exception. --benlisquareTCE 04:31, 2 July 2014 (UTC)


Wikipedia and common usage prefer gender-neutral pronouns ("it", "its") to refer to ships; feminine pronouns ("she", "her", "hers") are acceptable but not recommended. Each article should be internally consistent and employ one or the other exclusively. Editors should not change the form in existing articles without consensus on the talkpage.

Wikipedia will see a turnover of editors over the years, and wikiusage will gradually—inevitably—gravitate toward what layfolk and styleguides already prefer. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 04:36, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose - per my response to proposal A. Gatoclass (talk) 04:55, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    So we can take that as a support for A, which doesn't have the "not recommended" wording? Tony (talk) 06:57, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
I altered my post above to clarify the meaning. Gatoclass (talk) 08:32, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Support - in spite of being called a Luddite. 'controversy' is the correct term because some editors will kick up a fuss no matter which way to set the guideline and this proposal allows some common sense choices without demanding an either/or situation. It has a nice parallel to WP:ENGVAR's first editor's choice principle.  Stepho  talk  05:46, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
So will we slap "controversial" on ENGVAR itself, gender-neutral language, and other guidelines that are far more heatedly debated, then? "Controversial" does nothing more than polarize and create unneeded drama, and will guarantee this issue will be debated ad nauseam. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 06:14, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Question. What the <redacted> <redacted> does "given the urgency of the gender issue on WMF sites" mean? I have an opinion, but I want to know what is going on here. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 06:20, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Comment I am appalled by the aggressive wording of this so called "much gentler proposal", referring to people who object as "luddite males are out in full force, SHOUTING their anger". Please withdraw these offensive comments, which seem designed to enflame the debate.Nigel Ish (talk) 06:39, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Arthur and Nigel: I hope you'll support or oppose based on the wordings alone, not the local social context. Tony (talk) 07:01, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
The "local social context" here at talk:MoS with the continual attacks on editors who disagree with the party line together with the typical "win at all costs" mentality exhibited by the MoS regulars (not just on this discussion), which I find is far more damaging to inclusivity than what pronouns to use means I will not comment on the proposal itself.Nigel Ish (talk) 08:47, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps you'd like to bow out of the process, then; but if you want to contribute constructively to the debate over the wordings, you'd be most welcome. Tony (talk) 09:01, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm afraid that the "local social context" affects how these wordings in the MoS would be interpreted, so, yes, I do need to know what it is before I can comment sensibly. Without knowing the context, I would strongly oppose B, but be neutral on A; however, I see A as significantly different from the status quote, so John's comment that "A merely reiterates the status quo" suggests that I may be misinterpreting either the status quo or A. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 13:13, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Why should we ignore "local social context" in regards of "luddite males out in full force", but not while fishing for some unspecified insult in the use of "she"? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:32, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
An excellent point, Nigel, but perhaps the best response is Don't feed the troll. Pashley (talk) 15:06, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose both - let the status quo remain, leaving the choice to those who actually write the articles. Mjroots (talk) 07:08, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Suppport A, as already indicated under the previous proposal above ('disagreement' preferred). I think it gives sufficient flexibility; 'B' goes too far in painting editors into a corner. Davidships (talk) 07:24, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Support B as A merely reiterates the status quo. MoS should make recommendations with a view to consistency to reduce reader confusion. She for ships is Victorian; it reminds me of a really old history book I had at school that referred to Russia, France and Austria-Hungary as "she", and also of finding and removing instances where editors have extended the "she" to include aircraft and spacecraft. Language changes and we as a tertiary resource should reflect that. Harping on about "political correctness" makes you sound like Alan Partridge. --John (talk) 09:28, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    John, A is a change in the status quo, centring on the word "preferred". It is the weakest expression of the world as it has been changing around us in this respect; in compensatory measures given the inevitable resistance from older anglo-saxon men here, it spells out protection for those who feel strongly attached to the sexist usage. The typical armoury of of pleadings against even a generalised encouragement of gender-neutral language is on display right now: it includes the "slippery slope" argument against change, and the "who says it causes offence" argument. We haven't yet seen the "ain't broke so don't fix it" one, but it will appear sooner or later. The proscription of changing existing articles (and even newly started articles that already use the sexist form) remains, clearly spelled out. Many of us would ban the sexist form altogether, except in quotations, of course; but compromise we must. Tony (talk) 14:27, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose both. It's a slippery slope, and just the first step in removing choice from the editors. Manxruler (talk) 12:04, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    And I strongly resent being labelled "sexist". Manxruler (talk) 14:50, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    I am being a little provocative here, but it's the manner in which I'd discuss it anywhere. At least it prepares you for the criticism that might be levelled more generally. At the same time, I apologise for appearing to be personal. Tony (talk) 15:08, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    What do you mean by "the criticism that might be levelled more generally"? From whom would such criticism come? We're supposed to be civil and show good faith, which isn't the same as making assumptions of sexism with regards to using she/her in connection with ships. Manxruler (talk) 15:25, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

Inquiry: While any 'forward progress' towards the standard international language convention is desirable here, I wonder what the unwillingness of the greater interested community from releasing their hold on their use of an archaic custom means for English language wikipedia and perhaps the English language itself as an 'international language'. I would think passionate English language users would be more willing to 'internationalize' their language (in other words, modify objectionable customs in favor of maximizing international use/acceptability/agreeableness). Is not this dispute here (and the apparent outcome) at WP:MOS an example of an instance where the English language is failing as an international language? Sdkenned (talk) 15:18, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

  • Oppose both - for a number of reasons; this discussion has already taken place before, removes choice from editors, others mentioned above. As an aside for the proponents of the changes, do they intend to go through all the ship articles and change the words if it passes or are they going to sit here and make the vast majority of ship editors change it for them so their sensibilities are not insulted? If they do win here, hopefully they will back up their demands with action. Foxxraven (talk) 15:39, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
I'd fix ten. InedibleHulk (talk) 15:41, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
Foxxraven, I wonder whether you might re-read both proposed texts. In particular, A says: "... both forms are acceptable. Editors should not change the form in existing articles without consensus on the talkpage." I'm confused about your comment in relation to this clear statement. Tony (talk) 16:47, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
How long before that gets changed if this passes? How long before highly visible articles like RMS Titanic are forced to change their pronouns. That is why I asked if those like you who are demanding the change are willing to go through the articles and change them? From your edit history you do not edit a great many ship articles, so I assume this is some kind of personal crusade of yours. To each their own, but all I ask is for you to, and forgive the colloquialism here, "put up or shut up" should the decision go your way.
You're asking him to "put up or shut up" when he's explicitly telling you no changes to articles are being proposed? Tony, are you willing and able to do absolutely nothing, or is that too much to ask you and your busy schedule? Will you need help? Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 22:33, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Curly, I've no intention of changing any gendered usage in ship articles. Never have, I don't think. I've looked at a couple for a friend, and found the pronoun (was it "she" or "it", I can't remember) was overused, and rotated it a little with "the ship" and [ship's name], just to break up the density of pronoun refs. That much is style over and above the choice of gender or non-gender. The unsigned comment above: I've proposed a very gentle reform that spells out that existing usage should not be changed without local talkpage consensus. It's current practice anyway. What more can I do? And it wouldn't be me doing it; it could be someone else. Just let me know and I'll come in and support the proper process without bias (as any editor should). Tony (talk) 09:03, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Strongly Oppose B. Support A provided that restoring the status quo is an option when further changes are discussed. "A", as written, seems reasonable, but there is a agenda presented by those who perceive sexism where no one with even a minimal understanding of English should. (I think that we need a guideline WP:RIGHTSMALLWRONGS (essentially, WP:RIGHTGREATWRONGS, with the additional note that the perceived "wrong" is not perceived as important (not to mention "wrong") by hardly anybody.) That agenda should be opposed by all sensible people. I still want to know what "the urgency of the gender issue on WMF sites" and the "social context" here mean, as it affects how the guideline will be applied, regardless (or perhaps even independent) of how it is written. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 20:50, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    • Do your homework please Arthur. Here is someone who did, although they seem to have reached rather a poor conclusion. Along with your proposal, maybe we should have WP:READTHESOURCES. I suppose WP:CIR is as close as we have. --John (talk) 20:58, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose both. The "gender-neutral form" is not preferred, nor should feminine pronounds be "not recommended". (What, is there a war on feminine pronouns? Should we ban all feminine pronouns? Should WP engage in a grand project to make English entirely sexless?) ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:25, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    • I think the proposal is to restrict feminine pronouns to things that are actually, you know, feminine? Ships are not, and English does not generally use grammatical gender. --John (talk) 21:31, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
    • Should we burn all strawmen? Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 22:14, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
      • With fire. --John (talk) 09:53, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
    • Banning feminine pronouns would solve the problem of the second paragraph of MOS:IDENTITY. In fact, it is probably the only way to solve the problem which wouldn't result in editors being indefinitely blocked. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 09:12, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose both. The fact that some people are offended by the very concept of gender is no reason to remove it from articles... Just make sure the article is internally consistent, and let the writers use their own style/vocab... Simon Burchell (talk) 09:29, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Comment It's hard to know where to post in this long discussion, so I'll hedge my bets and just go for the bottom of the votes. I have only one observation to make; I notice that the Lloyds article has been referred to rather a lot as an example of the declining use of the feminine pronoun. On the other hand, near the bottom of that article, the Royal Navy are quite categoric that they will continue to use 'she' or 'her'. So are the BMF.

If you visit the websites of the US Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, The US Coastguard, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the Marine Coastguard Agency, Cunard Cruises, P&O Cruises (indeed all of the Carnival Cruise companies it appears), Brittany Ferries, Stena Line, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the National Maritime Museum, to name but a few examples, you'll find they use female pronouns extensively in their literature, press releases and other material online.

Equally, I'm sure there are a lot of companies that don't use feminine pronouns. My point is that if we are to look to common usage outside of Wikipedia, there are a lot more examples than just the Telegraph article. Ranger Steve Talk 16:03, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Indeed. And this illustrates well my point that common usage currently encompasses 'it' and 'she' in significant proportions in both maritime and general contexts and that WP should find the right internal guidance to respect and reflect that. Davidships (talk) 22:45, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
That paper also demonstrates that "many countries" agree on using legalese (or "lawspeak", if you're into that). Like sailors, bureaucrats are a minority group, and Wikipedia writes for the general audience. InedibleHulk (talk) 14:30, July 3, 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose both for the very simple reason that the proponents of the proposed changes have, in my opinion, failed to provide convincing reasons for either the necessity or the desirability of the proposed changes. The burden of supporting the proposed changes is on the proponents, and in reviewing this discussion top to bottom, I have yet to see a single new argument advanced. Not a single one. This really does smack of "voting will continue until the desired result is obtained." It's time for a moratorium on this discussion, and it can be revisited in two to three years when we can evaluate whether there has been a discernible change in the related media and literature coverage and style practices. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 15:00, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose both: We've tried this sort of wishy-washy approach before, with capitalization of species common names, and it just led to two additional years of vicious fighting, histrionics, wikiproject entrenchment, etc. Don't repeat that mistake, only a month or two after we just resolved it! At any rate, both of these proposals also misstate the facts: It is not traditional (to the extent anyone does it at all any longer) to use "she"/"her" to refer to all ships, only to those of British and British-descended naval traditions. — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:00, 9 July 2014 (UTC)

A third Proposal: The Status Quo[edit]

This has officially reached the point of hilariousness, so here's a new proposal: Leave the status quo as is.

Ships may be referred to either using feminine pronouns ("she", "her") or genderless pronouns ("it", "its"). Either usage is acceptable, but each article should be internally consistent and employ one or the other exclusively. As with all optional styles, articles should not be changed from one style to another unless there is a substantial reason to do so.

  • Support I for one am fed up with the drama. The status quo is a stable position, and this principle has been successfully guiding WP:SHIPS and WP:MILHIST editors for years. It works, so I say lets codify it here as we did there and be done with this already. TomStar81 (Talk) 00:41, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support - It's time to stop the madness. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 00:45, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support per TomStar81. I for one would like a moratorium of at least two years on this topic. It is very clear, and has been through all of the previous discussions, that there is no consensus in favor of any of the endless series of proposed changes. Enough is enough. -Ad Orientem (talk) 01:22, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose strawman argument, as no one has ever claimed that "she" has not been used for ships. Further, it's a style issue, not a content issue, thus the above arguments (OR?!?) fall hugely far of the mark. Using "mankind" to refer to humanity—despite mountains of RSs that use the term—is the kind of thing the community has soundly rejected. If "she" is to be used, it needs sounder reasoning than "I have a bunch of books that use it" and spurious accusations of OR. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 01:58, 6 July 2014 (UTC) — I've struck my oppose, as my concerns below have been addressed. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 01:43, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
    • I respectfully move that this objection as it is worded now be struck from the record on grounds that the editor in question has failed to provide any Wikipedia-based policy or guideline issues in the objection beyond WP:IDONTLIKEIT, which as an essay has no place or weight in this discussion. I am open to striking my comment when and if an actual Wikipedia police or guideline can be shown given to support this position. And as a practical matter, "mankind" can exist under these three points given just as easily as "humankind", so your "community doesn't like it" POV holds no weight to the core values either. Food for thought. TomStar81 (Talk) 02:13, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
      • Oh, lighten up. People are entitled to state preferences. Mine is for the status quo, but don't get all lawyery with the other side. --Trovatore (talk) 02:15, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
      • (edit conflict) So YOUDONTLIKE being called out on your strawman argument, so your response to is have that fact suppressed? Show us one diff—even one—to support your claim that anyone on the planet has ever claimed that "she" has not been used for ships. Since your rationale entirely depends on it, so does your proposal. (Note that I'm not actually opposed to the status quo, just the dishonest rationale. We do not need precedents like this). Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 02:22, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
        • Actually, you misunderstand the point of the challenge. If it is in fact shown that multiple guidelines or policies may in fact be of relevant issue beyond the points I have raised here then I would need to re-examine my argument in light of the new evidence presented in order to ensure that the point I am making and the point being challenged still make sense. Accordingly, if the opposition can show a policy or guideline that I can not in good faith challenge, then I owe the the editors here an apology for the drama and thinly veiled effort to call the challengers stupid on grounds that they do in fact have an ace in their hand I had not considered. TomStar81 (Talk) 02:37, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
          • Actually, I'll axe my argument and take up your position in fairness as an obtuse point under COMMONNAME: those not given to nautical terminology would commonly name a ship "it", so there be an angle I failed to consider. TomStar81 (Talk) 02:48, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
            • I think you rather meant WP:COMMONALITY, and I don't think it's in the least bit obtuse, given that Wikipedia aims at a general readership, and the general reader is undeniably more comfortable with "it" rather than "she". I would strike my oppose if this were a mere proposal to leave the wording as it is, but it's not—it's a proposal to change the understanding underlying the guideline, and I oppose that in the strongest possible way. The claims of OR are simply and entirely baseless, and worse, I suspect the supporters didn't even read the rationale—they simply read the proposal to retain the status quo and stamped their approval below without reading the fine print. Remove the bogus rationale and I'll remove my oppose. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 04:33, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
                • Of course I didn't read it. Totally TL;DR. My support is for the proposal, not for the rationale, which I still haven't read and have no intention of doing so. --Trovatore (talk) 00:28, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
                  • @TomStar81: Do you not see the ethical dilemma here? The other two proposals are clearly going to be rejected, thus maintaining the stuatus quo. Acceptance of your proposal, however, will set a new precedent under which teh status quo is accepted—maintaining the letter while changing the spirit of the so-called "status quo". It's clear that people are supporting something other than your actual proposal. Please reconsider. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 01:04, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. No good reason to change. --Trovatore (talk) 02:11, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Using 'she' to describe ships of any/all nationality alienates readers who may identify with the nationality of the ship in question. Use of 'she' brands the knowledge pertaining to the ship (if not the ship itself) British/English/US American or otherwise associated with an enemy/foreign military tradition. Sdkenned (talk) 15:44, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support; common sense and consistency with how we handle all other issues like this, hopefully, will serve us well. Andrew Gray (talk) 16:18, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support Johnbod (talk) 18:21, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Manxruler (talk) 00:20, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Which is not so much for the status quo as it is, but for documenting it. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:41, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Smeat75 (talk) 22:40, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. We wouldn't have an entire nautical mile of argument here already if this were not an real dispute, which should be resolved, not swept under the rug. As noted earlier, real-world usage has clearly shifted strongly toward neuter, not feminine, and thus our own usage here will inevitably be neuter. There is no reason to wait until some die-hard "she"-users retire from editing before going where we know where going to go. Just get it over with. At any rate, this proposal also misstates the facts: It is not traditional (to the extent anyone does it at all any longer) to use "she"/"her" to refer to all ships, only to those of British and British-descended naval traditions.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:07, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
    • Comment The last point makes very little sense to me. Exactly what English-speaking nation does not have a "British-descended naval tradition"? --Trovatore (talk) 00:14, 10 July 2014 (UTC)
      • The ship articles are not limited to those from English-speaking nations. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 00:20, 10 July 2014 (UTC)
        • No, but for purposes of choices related to how we use the English language, only English-speaking nations count. --Trovatore (talk) 00:22, 10 July 2014 (UTC)
WP:IAR. That is my reply to your statement. WP:BOLD. That is my defense of the practice. WP:DISRUPTIVE. That is all anyone has done to this 'discussion' (including myself). WP:AGF. That is what we all need to do. WP:RFC. That is where this should go, since it is clear to me that all the discussion in the world isn't going to solve anything here. TomStar81 (Talk) 23:01, 9 July 2014 (UTC)

  • Picky little note I have taken the liberty of changing "female pronouns" to "feminine pronouns" in the quote. Pronouns do not have gametes. (The status quo actually says "feminine", and the proposal says it's the status quo.) --Trovatore (talk) 04:07, 10 July 2014 (UTC)
    • Even more picky little note: we should distinguish between grammatical gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and sex (aka social gender: male, female, "genderless"). There are two ways of looking at it:
  1. One school says that English has grammatical gender but it is not grammaticalized to the same extent as in other languages. In that case the grammatical gender "feminine" is appropriate, but the following "genderless" should be changed as well since "it" has grammatical gender (which is not necessarily directly related to sex/social gender).
  2. The other school says that English does not have grammatical gender. In this case pronouns agree with the sex of the referent. Nowadays, of course, even among linguists, the word '"sex" can be replaced by the term (social) "gender", but the (relevant) biological or social genders are male and female, not masculine and feminine.
So if we change "female" to "feminine" we should change "genderless" to "neuter, since the pronoun "it" does have grammatical gender. When referring to social gender, "feminine" has a different meaning that is not relevant in a linguistic context. --Boson (talk) 13:11, 10 July 2014 (UTC)

While we're at it, "served" or "was used"?[edit]

Just noticed that changing "she" to "it" would make "It served in the Theoretical War" sound odder. Serving needs willfull intention, doesn't it? The people on the ship serve their government, and the ship serves as transport/weaponry, but it's just a conscienceless tool. If we ban "she", should we treat it as such; "was used", "was deployed", "was captained"?

And does it "see" battle? InedibleHulk (talk) 17:28, June 30, 2014 (UTC)

Books "see" print. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 21:20, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Years "see" events, in print. It's all rather troubling. Why didn't 1888 go to Scotland Yard and settle the Ripper thing? History loves a mystery, I guess. InedibleHulk (talk) 21:59, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
Is this argument supposed to be going somewhere? Seriously, there is no credible argument against these usages of "see" or "serve", and calling a ship a "she" makes it no less an inanimate object, so your argument would apply whether the pronoun were changed or not. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 22:27, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
I just tend to agree with the part of the MoS that says "If a literal interpretation of a phrase makes no sense in the context of a sentence, it should be reworded." Maybe that should be reworded, if "she" isn't. It still sounds odd saying "she served", just odder saying "it served". InedibleHulk (talk) 22:36, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
I tend to agree with the Oxford Concise, which gives as its fourth definition of "serve": be of use in achieving something or fulfilling a purpose. Even literally the usage is correct. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 22:42, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Fair enough. Though still a tad ambiguous, in a military context. Like saying a doctor has patience. I wave my white flag in this battle, but the "see" war will rise again! Maybe. Not a huge deal. InedibleHulk (talk) 01:50, July 1, 2014 (UTC)
I don't buy any of that. Figures of speech are fine as long as they suit the context. I am reminded of what Bierce wrote: "RAREBIT, n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and that..." And why should serving require willful (ahem!) intention? Ask any conscript or hatch. And to say that the shipping container served us as a shelter is as clear and less passive than that it "was employed" as our home. And if you want to know about ships called "he", read "Masterman Ready". And once you get to other languages than English, particularly those that that employ genders more intensively, you will find far more assorted genders and personifications in common speech than those that serve us in English. JonRichfield (talk) 18:58, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
I love looking at different languages. For English Wikipedia, English will do. The one I hate is having a section called Fate as though we lived in a predetermined universe. --John (talk) 19:06, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
That'd be a fun eternal argument, trying to prove we don't. Support fate here, for what it's worth. InedibleHulk (talk) 19:16, June 30, 2014 (UTC)
Figures of speech are WP:IDIOMS. Depending on the reader's background, the rhetoric can be wasted or confusing. Plain English works best. I'm absolutely fine with saying an object "serves as" something, like shelter or table. And a meal can "serve eight". But in a military context, service requires obedience, and obedience needs a brain. Even those who were drafted had a choice whether to serve, it was just often a lot harder than a volunteer's. Ships have no will.
I'm also absolutely fine with other languages doing whatever. Thanks for teaching me what a toad-in-the-hole is. And a comestible. InedibleHulk (talk) 19:14, June 30, 2014 (UTC)

On the subject of the word "serve", I see The Times Style and Usage Guide also states that one serves on a merchant ship but in a warship – and in a submarine even though a submarine is a boat, not a ship. Apparently readers complain when they get it "wrong".--Boson (talk) 16:54, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

. . . and talking of "It served in the Theoretical War" sounding odd, does "its maiden voyage" or "her maiden voyage" sound odder? And is "maiden voyage" sexist?--Boson (talk) 16:54, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Only if you believe the adjective "maiden" conveys one particular sex. The OED makes clear that it's principal meaning is "virgin", and so is of any (or rather no) particular sex. Its application to a thing conveys that it is the first of its kind or has never before been used, as for a "maiden sword", "maiden speech", or "maiden race". Of course, the common use of the noun "maiden" has taken a female character, but that is distinct from the adjectival usage. However, I've never really liked "it" for ships: it seems like a linguistic contortion which loses the figurative implication of being the captain's true love. A ship should simply be the opposite sex to the captain. LeadSongDog come howl! 17:50, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, losing the implications and metaphor is the point. Too much room for interpretation (doesn't Wikipedia think gay captains can find true love?). Great for tall tales of the mermaiden who met Phil the Kraken, not great for conveying facts. A substantial minority of people saw American Pie, but we don't reflect the longing in the loins in apple pie. It is sometimes served with whipped cream or ice cream on top, or alongside cheddar cheese. Flute uses neither "it" nor "he" in the lead. InedibleHulk (talk) 13:47, July 5, 2014 (UTC)

John's summary[edit]

  • Current practice is to permit the use of "she" for ships (though not "he" as some seem to think).
  • There are plenty of sources that consider this usage as archaic, anthropomorphic or just plain silly.
  • Nobody really knows where this custom originates. The Daily Telegraph reported in 2002 that Lloyd's List had abandoned this practice in favour of using "it".
  • English does not generally use grammatical gender, unlike many other European languages. "She" was formerly used to describe countries, the moon, the human soul and various other non-living entities. This is no longer done except for poetical effect.
  • Some of the "explanations" and defences for the remaining use of this terminology are cringe-makingly sexist.
  • Wikipedia does not embrace archaic forms, sexism, or poetic/rhetorical language. --John (talk) 08:16, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
As you mention, in English and American, nouns do not have gender, and it is arguable whether pronouns do or not. This is unlike most Indo-European languages, barco would be male; navire would be female or Schiff would be neuter. English therefore depends upon common usage (AKA tradition) to select a pronoun to substitute for a noun. In this case, ship=her. --Lineagegeek (talk) 23:09, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
Why does the "executive summary" summarise only one side of the discussion?  Stepho  talk  09:22, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Hmm. There was so little of substance it was hard to summarize. I'll try.
    • Proponents of the "she" usage argue that to change it to reflect modern sources would be "political correctness"
    • There's a lot of misunderstanding about how the English language deals with pronouns; several people have argued that we should get rid of female pronouns completely. It is hard to tell if they are being satirical or just plain ignorant.
    • Tradition, tradition, tradition.
    • We have seen a couple of people trot out the slippery slope argument; while it's one of my favourite logical fallacies, it isn't clear what they think the terrible consequence will be here.
    • Some people are against the very idea of having a Manual of Style
    • It's been stated that nobody arguing to change the MoS ever has done, or ever will do, work on ship articles. While that fails the most elementary factual inspection, it seems a popular meme here. --John (talk) 09:49, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Response to your judgement[edit]

  • All I asked was that the proponents of the changes not go around afterward demanding changes on existing ship articles without helping change them. You know as well as I do John that if these changes pass, then highly visible (FA articles being nominated and past FA articles) or highly visible ships such as the Costa Concordia and Titanic, will be asked to change their pronouns. That's a given. I can visibly see you and Tony frothing at the mouth waiting to make these demands, because as soon as the FA articles are such, in order to bring any other article to that level, well then, that would mean changing the pronouns. That may sound like a slippery slope argument to you, but I see it as cause and effect. One does not have to think hard about this subject in order to see the eventual outcome, especially when you and Tony continue to belittle those who do not hold to your beliefs. You and Tony intend to get your way and no doubt you will, since eventually those of us who do not want to deal with wikidrama on a daily basis will eventually stop showing up to fight this. So once again, all I ask, in fairness to the change, is that you, Tony and Curly (since you too seem to make time out of your day to belittle) take the time to work on those ship articles that will no doubt be asked to change in the future should you win. It's not a rude demand, it's just a fair share of the work. Inedible Hulk said they'd change ten. Can you make a similiar promise or are you the kind of person who storms into a room, demands change, and then walks out when the work has to be done to affect that change? I wish you a nice day. Foxxraven (talk) 14:20, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
    • For the life of me I couldn't understand why Foxxraven had chosen to list me as one of those belittle, as I haven't called anyone sexist, creepy, or a luddite. I asked and was told some sarcasm constituted an "attack", and was subjected to ad hominems and threats to report me—topped off with a little sarcasm. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:28, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Due to Curly's continued harassment, I have decided to retire as an editor. I asked him to stop on my talk page and he hasn't and now he's taken it here. I wish you all good editing, and I hope this is resolved with a modicum of respect that Curly has yet to show. I wish you all a nice day. Foxxraven (talk) 00:36, 3 July 2014 (UTC)


That's not a summary of the views of those opposed to the first proposal or favouring at least one of the "softer" proposals - it's just a cynical poke and serves no useful function. In particular, you completely ignore the views of those who believe that, although common usage is moving in the direction of neuter, use of female pronouns is still in practice (and not just in maritime circles) quite widespread, at least in England. And the first part even introduces a silly link, rightly not mentioned by anyone in the discussion. Davidships (talk) 11:32, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

This whole thread is clearly serving no useful function. The executive summary is most clearly "some think 'she' for ships is archaic and we should use 'it'. Others do not think 'she' for ships is archaic". The greatest outcome for readers would be if we all stopped reading and arguing on this page and went off to do something actually productive. The potential reader gains via this proposal have already been lost by the editor time spent in this discussion. SFB 16:25, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Though it may not be stated explicitly, I sense an undercurrent similar to some discussions on things like capitalization, that some editors who prefer "she" feel that it gives an article more "cred", in that it identifies the writer as one of the "cognoscenti", whereas its non-use might make an expert reader wonder why a person who is not familiar with the standard conventions is writing an article on the subject. Similarly, American programmers might take note if they see "a SCSI . . ." or "a SQL . . ." and Linguists might take note if they see "Linguist" or "Language" used "correctly". --Boson (talk) 16:43, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

A linguistic perspective on ships and gender[edit]

I learned of this discussion through the note on WikiProject Linguistics' talk page, so I thought I'd share the reasons people started using "she" for ships. Or at least, the reasons according Guy Deutscher in his book Through the Language Glass, pp.205-208.

In a nutshell, Deutscher says that "she" for ships is a remnant of the gender system in Old English. Until the 11th century, there were three genders in English, just like the current German system. The genders were highly irregular, also much like they are in modern French or German; you couldn't tell just by looking at something what grammatical gender it had.

The reason ships were a "she" in Old English, rather than a "he" or an "it", may have been quite arbitary. Deutscher thinks that most gender systems start out perfectly logically, extending from generic nouns in the language. Quoting: There are a few languages, especially in Africa, in which the feminine gender marker looks rather like a shortened version of the noun 'woman' itself, and the inanimate gender marker resembles the noun 'thing'. Likewise, the vegetable gender marker in some Australian languages looks rather similar to the noun... 'vegetable'.

However, over time, new words come into the language, and they need to be assigned to one gender or another. This will usually make the system less and less logical. Deutscher gives the example of how the word "aeroplane" got assigned to the "vegetable" gender in the Australian language Guragone. He hypothesises that the vegetable gender was first extended to different types of plants, including wood; wood was extended to all wooden objects, including canoes, which were originally made of wood; and canoes were extended to cover different forms of transportation. The steps are all perfectly logical, but the end result is anything but.

So, we can never really know why ships were female in Old English, but it is probably something along the lines of that process. And after the twelfth century, the gender system that had supported feminine ships started to disappear. On this, Deutscher says, The collapse of the Old English irregular genders had little to do with improving standards of sex education. The reason was rather that the gender system had critically depended on the doomed system of case endings. Originaly, English had a complex case system similar to that of Latin, where nouns and adjectives appeared with different endings depending on their role in the sentence. Nouns of different genders had different sets of such case endings, so one could tell from the endings which gender a noun belonged to. But the system of endings rapidly disintegrated in the century after the Norman Conquest, and once the endings had disappeared, the new generation of speakers hardly had any clues left to tell them which gender each noun was supposed to belong to.

The reasons that ships clung on to their gender, while other words quickly lost theirs, are not clear. However, ships weren't alone. Deutscher says that some dialects of English kept some of their words' genders until considerably later than the twelfth century. And he points to Lloyd's List's decision to switch to "it" in 2002 as the "final mooring" in the "slow but sure iticisation of English".

Whether this has any bearing or not on the current discussion is an open question, but I hope people have found this post informative. Best — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 11:02, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

Literally, ships were often alone. Just like remote communities on land, it doesn't surprise me they'd be slow to assimiliate (or let their one figment of a woman go so easily). InedibleHulk (talk) 05:38, July 2, 2014 (UTC)
  • One issue with this is that, in Anglo-Saxon, "scip" (for "ship") was of the neuter gender, according to Bosworth-Toller. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 11:25, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
    I stand corrected. Checking Deutscher again, he says that Lloyd's List's decision was the "final mooring" of the Old English gender system, but he doesn't outright say that ship was feminine in Old English. Not sure if that's a research error or just poetic licence. Still, that fact does make my post pretty much irrelevant to this discussion - oh well. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 15:20, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Yes, I've seen this explanation debunked as well on those grounds. Modern German has "das Schiff" and "das Boot" (both neuter) for ship and boat respectively. Very interesting post though. Lloyd's List's decision to switch to "it" in 2002 was the "final mooring" in the "slow but sure iticisation of English", apart from some die-hards on a free online encyclopedia, eh? --John (talk) 11:26, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
    • Could I say: grammatical gender such as our language had a looong time ago is a very different matter from gendered pronominal references like "she" for ship. It's still "the" and "a" and "this" ship, no matter what. Also, I just want to make the point that I'm not unsympathetic to the feeling that "we've always done it that way"—I can empathise, I can find the same patterns in myself on other points of language (in fact, life). It just doesn't override the need for a weak statement in MOS that doesn't tell editors how to do it. If we don't work out something this time, no hard feelings, and you can be sure it will come up again. :-) Tony (talk) 12:34, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
But Tony, "gender" for inanimate objects in other languages is not really about gender. No one actually thinks those nouns are female, male, or neuter. Gender is just a distinction that adds specificity to the language. (talk) 13:09, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
OK, I'm going to wade in here off-topic for a moment. My comments really have nothing to do with whether ships should be called "she".
The grammatical meaning of the word "gender" is the original one. Etymologically, "gender" means "kind", more or less, and has no necessary connection with either biological sex or social roles associated with biological sex. I seem to recall that there is a language with 16 genders.
The present-day use of "gender" to mean attributes associated with biological sex was originally intended to be humorous. Its non-ironic use is a contemporary innovation. To me, an unwelcome one, but that's even further off-topic. --Trovatore (talk) 05:28, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Deutscher and a handful of studies would beg to differ with that. He argues that speakers of gendered languages actually do associate inanimate objects with masculine or feminine qualities depending on their grammatical gender. For example, in one experiment participants were asked to help to prepare for a film in which inanimate objects come to life, and they had to choose either a male or a female voice for each object. Even though the participants only saw images of the objects, and didn't see or hear their names, they tended to choose a voice corresponding to that object's grammatical gender in their language. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 15:31, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
Good comments, much appreciated. Grammatical gender is quite the relevant topic here, which I recommend to all. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:29, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
It's less relevant than you think—as has already been pointed out, the use of the feminine to refer to ships does not have its origins in the old English gender system (under which scip was neuter). Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 06:12, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps I was not entirely clear. My point is not about the origins of this usage, but that "gender" (as stated by Trovatore) "has no necessary connection with either biological sex or social roles associated with biological sex." ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:58, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
In English, "he" and "she" are tied to biological sex and social roles associated with biological sex. That's what has happened in the six centuries since we've dropped grammatical gender. This is why laypersons find the usage of "she" for ships unnatural or affected. That's been true since long before the Politically Correct Brigade arrived on the scene. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:03, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
That such a tie is made in some cases (the equivalent in symbolic logic of "∃": "there exists") does not mean that only such cases are to be allowed. No one here has denied that "he" and "she" are primarily applied to persons (distinguished by these things or those things, or however "gender" is to be determined). The question is whether there is some grave offense or insult to any persons if a personal pronoun is applied to a non-person. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:02, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
"The question is whether there is some grave offense or insult": nope, was never my argument—in fact, in my very first comment in this discussion I explicitly stated I didn't buy that argument. Have you not noticed that the push for gender-neutral language here has come from several different directions? Tony & John with sexism, Sdkenned with the "British naval tradition" thing, myself arguing from a "lay-usage for lay-readers" perspective. As for my argument, I doubt many would be "offended" by the usage, but I can guarantee you most wouldn't use it themselves—and for entirely non-political reasons. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 21:51, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

I recommend to one and all Djembayz's comment (above) that

"she" is a way to express affection and a personal appreciation (or dismay) regarding the characteristics of a vessel. Anthropomorphism is a useful way to describe the idiosyncracies of how a particular vessel responds.

I would add that this was more significant in the days of sail, when reliance on the capricious winds and frail wooden hulls made survival at sea a more nearly desparate matter. Survival often depended on an intimate understanding of their vessel's capabilities, so it is not surprising that they anthropomorphized. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:08, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

Interesting point. I wonder, would those who advocate "it" for ships also want to discourage anthropomorphism? Either here, in Wiki, or elsewhere? (talk) 21:13, 5 July 2014 (UTC)
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:17, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
Of course. There are various anti-anthropomorphism points in MOS, one of the most obvious being to not ascribe actions to the inanimate, e.g. the year 2002 did not "see" any historical events at all, because it does not have eyes and a brain.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:24, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
Absolutely discourage it on Wiki. Fine for artistic ventures. Enough of a hassle getting facts straight here, let alone pondering whether the cruel/vengeful/heroic wind roared, screamed or sung during any particular hurricane. Or whether ships are "more human" than air, time, or water. That all depends how you were raised, where you've been since and which song is in your head. Plain English is far more universal. Even lightly-armoured ships are literally impregnable. InedibleHulk (talk) 01:44, July 10, 2014 (UTC)


We have anti-Semites and holocaust denialists as well as POV pushers of every kind causing all manner of confusion and degrading the quality of this site and THIS topic is worthy of this much discussion? Will all of the boaters, sailors, and poets please weigh in and please bring this to an end. --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 17:13, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

I suspect the popularity of many of these kinds of "teacup" issues depends on scaling, accessibility, proximity, and possible tractability. E.g., some issues are too big to grasp (Syria, the global economy), or too deep (quantum mechanics), or too distant (water supply issues in the Andes), or too frustratingly adamantine (denialism in various forms). On the other hand, issues that lack all of these hard aspects, where anyone can have an opinion without being obviously ignorant, are "just right". And easier than doing real work. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:31, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
You should have seen The Great Hyphen-Dash War (sorry if I did that wrong) or the Capital Goose Incident. Many man-hours perished. Lest we forget the woman-hours as well.
Personally, I find the whole Antisemitism thing was argued to death long ago. Now it's just a goopy pool of emotions each side flings at the other. But when I stumbled across the ship thing, it struck me that I'd never thought of it before. It was more intriguing than the stuff people constantly re-explode about on the Internet. Might be the same for the others. InedibleHulk (talk) 05:20, July 2, 2014 (UTC)
Sigh, InedibleHulk, your point is well taken. I can easily see how the rigors of debating such an explosive issue would make this discussion seem like a respite.... --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 17:51, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I'm still wishing for peace among the Jews and the rest. Peace wishing may be seen as pointless hippie bullcrap, and to an extent it is, but nobody can spin, twist, cherrypick and misconstrue a dream like they can with windy words. Arguments themselves hurt feelings, and hurt feelings are poison to rational thought. Without that around, simple relation concepts like fairness and honesty get lost in the flames.
One study suggests the most destructive war to ever hit Wikipedia may come when George W. Bush and the prophet Muhammad sign with WWE and feud, while we debate whether the resultant climate of anarchy is a work or shoot. Count me out of that perfect storm, too. InedibleHulk (talk) 13:27, July 3, 2014 (UTC)

Previous discussions[edit]

There has been some earlier discussion on the matter here:

One quote from 29 May 2013 that I found quite noteworthy is this:

"Ships which have been decommissioned and are awaiting scrapping are no longer referred to as females. They are hulks; they are dead things, and the word "it" is appropriate. This applies also to small or temporarily manned vessels, such as lifeboats, fishing boats and midget submarines, and probably tugboats as well, unless the tug is on a voyage somewhere. Ships are "she" when they are alive. Then they are the sailor's home, and they are providing nurture."

The claim that ships are referred to as female due to a "power dominance" metaphor (that ships are ridden, like women) is completely inane. To a sailor, a ship is their home away from home, and when not at port, the ship is all the sailor has to live with and use as shelter. This "imagery" of sorts is thus reflected in common and specialist English literature as a result, which leads to the usage we see here today on Wikipedia.

For people who have personalities that are easily offended, these people often actively seek expressions which they may interpret to offend them; this is known as "defensive reading". I think Stephen Fry or someone else (honestly cannot remember at this stage) stated that people will always be offended by something, and essentially anything can be seen as offensive by at least one person, and so it's essentially impossible to cater towards everyone's sensitivities. I am firmly of the belief that we should not be catering towards every single special snowflake or align the website with online social justice, and should remain using the English language as it is used in current literature. --benlisquareTCE 04:51, 2 July 2014 (UTC)

For people who have personalities that are easily offended, these people often actively seek expressions which they may interpret to offend them; this is known as "defensive reading". --This point may be more meaningful in cases where the British military and its history are not involved. To attribute to an individual who objects to the injection of British military tradition into their reading (especially when, but not limited to, reading about contra-British military forces) a 'personality that is easily offended' or 'defensive reading' is to fail to consider the glaring nature and history of the murderous institution. Military organizations are fundamentally, by inalienable nature, personally offensive: they maim, kill and otherwise harm people (even when used in a strategically 'defensive' manner). That it is assumed all readers (or even most readers) of English language WP are also "of the fold" of the British military tradition is absurd, considering the expansive global success the English language has had accumulating users and the controversial history of global British military operations. Anyway, however weak the supposition that objectors to this language convention on wikipedia are 'people who are easily offended' and engaging in 'defensive reading' is, such comments are further weakened by the fact that they are clearly designed to invalidate the opposing party of this issue, rather than address the specifics of the position(s) taken by them.Sdkenned (talk) 18:19, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Once again, I'm slightly offended by the use of the word "hulk". They're not dead, they live forever, brother! InedibleHulk (talk) 05:23, July 2, 2014 (UTC)
Well, we don't want to get you angry. We wouldn't like you when you're angry. --Trovatore (talk) 05:45, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Don't worry. As implied the first time I was "offended" here, I'm not incredible. I'm creaking. The worst I do is make distasteful comments, and refraining from replying to the "sailors ride women" assumption means I'm still in my mild-mannered, less offensive state. InedibleHulk (talk) 06:24, July 2, 2014 (UTC)
  • We are not sailors and we are not writing for sailors. I'll leave the inane ad hominems to one side and just finish by reminding you that ships are not alive, they are machines. As are aircraft, cars, motor-cycles and spacecraft, all of whom have their creepy fans who call them "she". Wikipedia does not follow this usage, so why should we for ships when mainstream literature does so less and less over time? --John (talk) 07:52, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Creepy? (talk) 13:12, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
For the record, all of my cars, save one, were female. The sole exception was definitely male, for reasons I can't discuss without recourse to other language that I picked up in the Navy. -Ad Orientem (talk) 19:07, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
John said he'd "leave the inane ad hominems to one side", so it's now clear he meant his side! ;) - BilCat (talk) 13:52, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I find sexism creepy. I find people who call their car "she" really creepy, and I always have done. That's an aesthetic judgement though and does not influence my opinion that Wikipedia usage should move into the late 20th century. --John (talk) 17:48, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
So what you're saying is that editors who use she/her with regards to ships are creepy sexists? Nice one, really nice. Great way to carry out a civil discussion, labelling those who disagree with you in such a manner. Manxruler (talk) 18:53, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
No, that's not what I said. Your attempt to put words into my mouth is noted. Of course, if the cap fits, you may happily wear it...--John (talk) 19:09, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
So that whole business was just directed at the folks who refer to their cars "she"? Al-right then, sure. I think I have nice enough caps as it is, so I'll refrain from wearing the offered one. Manxruler (talk) 20:18, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
  • I can appreciate John's point and feel that the defacto standard should be for gender neutrality in light of "We are not sailors and we are not writing for sailors" even as much as I believe that Editors who are experts in a particular field should be editing those related articles (WP:STEWARDSHIP). But, given the long history of this tradition and the intended romanticism (versus creepiness, which certainly exists as well) that some apply to sailing vessels, I feel that we should continue to allow the gender term and not admonish anyone who chooses to use it. "She" should not be encouraged, but it should be an acceptable alternative. The issue will sort itself out over time. My 2 cents... --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 18:02, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
John, you know both Captain Kirk and Scotty refer to the Enterprise as a "she". Are you saying that they are creepy? Really? (talk) 19:50, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Hmm, is the Enterprise a car, o anonymous one? Thought not. --John (talk) 19:56, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
It is a "starship". And they live in the 23rd century, I think, not the 20th century. This seems relevant. 19:58, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
She is a "starship". Since the custom apparently persists into the 23rd century, advocates of "it" for ships have not prevailed. John, you might as well concede this one. (talk) 20:22, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
👍 Like Mjroots (talk) 21:16, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
So, in considering how we call ships, it, she, or otherwise, I began to reflect on my own life. I have a friend who owns a green VW Golf, and she calls it "The Green Jesus". Not sure why, but should I be offended? Thanks. (talk) 14:54, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
Are you proposing that editors should be allowed to call VW Golfs "he" on Wikipedia? If not, then what bearing does this have on the discussion? Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 22:47, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
It is relevant insofar as people often use anthropomorphism and we don't need to be offended by it. (talk) 13:47, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
It is irrelevant insofar as we are discussing the Manual of Style for an encyclopaedia, and not shooting the shit about our muscle machines over a couple o' brews. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:21, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
  • As to the possibility of some "defensive reading" here Sdkenned demurs where "British military and its history" are involved, which he (she?) characterizes as a "murderous institution". S/he then expands on this with: "Military organizations are fundamentally, by inalienable nature, personally offensive: they maim, kill and otherwise harm people." So never mind any considerations of grammatical "rules" or implied (but never enunciated) sexism or sexist power dominance, or even the relationship of sailors to their ships: the supposed problem with "she" is its perceived origin from the British military. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:37, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
The above is only one of an array of arguements, not the only one. Also, origin can come into the arguement, in precise ways, but only association is necessary for the arguement's strength.Sdkenned (talk) 21:42, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
But as your initial objection concerned "offense" and "perpetuation of insult", which a mere grammatical violation would hardly arise to, and as you have repeatedly failed to explain how this usage is sexist, but have repeatedly referred to "British military", it seems that is, in fact, your primary concern and source of motivation. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:35, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Originally, but not finally nor exclusively.Sdkenned (talk) 22:39, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
Of course not exclusively, as you will grab any argument that seems to go your way. But antipathy to British military is still your primary motivation, right? Which does raise a question of whether you are sincerely concerned about alleged sexism, or are just using that to further your core antipathy. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:32, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Using “she” to refer to ships violates wikipedia's core values[edit]

The fundamental principles by which Wikipedia operates are summarized in the five pillars.
The second pillar is the one of primary interest for our current issue: Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view.
I am going to go on further citing wikipedia fundamental principals, but before doing so I want to point out there are low-level and high-level objections to the use of the cultural convention of referring to ships with the third person singular feminine pronoun “she”. At the low-level, considering the second pillar restated above, written from a “neutral” point of view, as in “neuter”. When there is a choice between using a feminine and a neuter pronoun to describe an inanimate, sexless object, despite “tradition” and “cultural customs”, the neuter must be preferred. Look at a basic table of pronoun-object correspondence: Feminine-Neuter FALSE (except when readers are aware of cultural idiosyncrasies... this cultural “quirk” should not be “taught” to readers through its continued use on EVERY or almost every wikipedia page where ocean-going vessels are mentioned, but on a page devoted to discussion of and history of language used by British/American naval personnel, and maybe shipping professionals of these nations, as has been discussed in this debate) Neuter-Neuter TRUE (you can call basic pronoun-object correspondence in sentences rules or you can call them differences or myriad other words).
The second pillar goes on: We strive for articles that document and explain the major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence in an impartial tone. … … … Editors' personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.
From neutral point of view FAQ:

Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic. All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view. NPOV is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and of other Wikimedia projects. This policy is nonnegotiable and all editors and articles must follow it.

From the NPOV FAQ:

Anglo-American focus

Wikipedia seems to have an Anglo-American focus. Is this contrary to NPOV?

Yes, it is, especially when dealing with articles that require an international perspective. The presence of articles written from a United States or European Anglophone perspective is simply a reflection of the fact that there are many U.S. and European Anglophone people working on the project. This is an ongoing problem that should be corrected by active collaboration between Anglo-Americans and people from other countries. But rather than introducing their own cultural bias, they should seek to improve articles by removing any examples of cultural bias that they encounter, or making readers aware of them. A special WikiProject for Countering systemic bias has been set up to deal with this problem. This is not only a problem in the English Wikipedia. The French Language Wikipedia may reflect a French bias, the Japanese Wikipedia may reflect a Japanese bias, and so on.

For the most part, advocates for the continued use of “she” for “ships” in this discussion do not admit that the custom is biased based on their personal point of view (or larger cultural/national point of view). There may be a number of reasons for this, but one that stands out is that verbal maritime military and shipping customs do not imply personal point of view. The fraternity of Anglo-American naval and maritime commerce simply do not acknowledge that their point of view is not the only point of view.
”Tradition” and “common usage” are no longer valid arguments, considering the explicit core wikipedia policy against this “ongoing problem” and the WP:MOS should “correct” this problem.
Wikipedia is not the officers club nor a maritime trade association, it is an encyclopedia written from a neutral point of view for general audiences.

Sdkenned (talk) 14:21, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

  • Sdkenned, I do not disagree with any of your points, but basically you seem to be making a case against Systemic bias which I doubt anyone would really disagree with. As I stated above, I feel the neuter form should be the standard and encouraged, but given the prevalence of the term in literature and writing and general I cannot advocate for the discouragement of the gender reference. It will simply never go away because of books like Moby Dick, the Horatio Hornblower series, and virtually every other work of literature that involves large ships. We could conceivably make this "problem" go away on Wikipedia, but we can't make it go away in the real world. This dichotomy seems.... for lack of a better way to put it, ignorant. --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 15:44, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
    You have a point Scalhotrod. Language rules in general tend to be descriptive, not prescriptive. However, it is also within the power of individual writers, editors and organisations to decide on certain standards of language. In 1876 it was considered acceptable to call Benjamin Disraeli a "Jew-boy". Most of us would find that unacceptable nowadays. In 1966 Enid Blyton took some flak for having a black doll called Sambo in one of her children's books, and remarking on his "ugly black face". I am utterly sure that there were people back then defending her right to use this language and laughing at those who questioned it. It's only a kid's book, right? Bloody political correctness. Language changes slowly, and in this discussion it has been apparent that the pack rides at the speed of the slowest horse. Perhaps we can come back to this in a year or so. Maybe some of the open misogynists will be dead by then, or have reappraised their olde worlde views. Until then. --John (talk) 17:08, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
I've been away for a week, I came back to see if this discussion had gone anywhere, and it's really, really gone somewhere unpleasant. John, are you really intending to say that using "she" makes someone "openly misogynistic", or that it's comparable to casual racial abuse? Because that's not a comparison I think you'd find most people (including many of those who avoid using it) would agree with, or even find remotely appropriate. Andrew Gray (talk) 21:23, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
"Maybe some of the open misogynists will be dead by then" - assuming you're talking about me because I support using on Wikipedia what the vast amount of English literature use when describing ships, let me tell you that I intend on staying alive for another 70 years. --benlisquareTCE 21:20, 4 July 2014 (UTC)

Stipulating the use of "it" rather than "she" in the manual of style would not necessarily prevent content contributers from using 'she' when making their entries, but it would give broad, one way license to editors to change "she" to "it" on detection.Sdkenned (talk) 23:57, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

"One-way license" to change 'she' to 'it' but not the contrariwise? Like, you get to choose the pronoun for the articles you write, AND you get to choose the pronoun for the articles I write? Why should your editing be more privileged than mine? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:04, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
Didn't you get the memo? Special snowflake opinions have more weight than everybody else. In the UK, doctors aren't allowed to tell patients they have obesity anymore, it's considered "fat-shaming" and they can get sued. If you have a tender daffodil opinion, you automatically get more privileges than everybody else. People like me simply have to put up with my opinion not being worth anything, because it's "old world" and "offensive". --benlisquareTCE 21:28, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
In my experience, when you see a commenter throwing around the special snowflakes & tender daffodils, you're dealing with a troll looking to provoke a reaction. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 23:13, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
  Dang, no, I didn't get that memo! Nor the one explaining just what the insult and offense here is. Sdkenned's objection is primarily because he associates the feminine pronoun with a militaristic tradition (or is it only the British militaristic traditon?). The charge of sexism, of insult and offense to females, seems to be carried mainly by Tony and John. But no explanation of how that is; apparently we are supposed to know that without having it explained. And until we find the daffodil our edits are to be corrected by those editors of a more sensitive nature. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:31, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

Please see WP:RIGHTGREATWRONGS... 'nuff said. Blueboar (talk) 23:23, 4 July 2014 (UTC)

Honestly this sounds a whole lot like advocacy. Is "she" an acceptable term for a ship? The wall of text here seems to suggest yes. Do people have an issue with this? The answer seems to be yes. Wikipedia shouldn't take a position on this matter. Until it actually is unacceptable to use "she" for a ship, it shouldn't change.Serialjoepsycho (talk) 09:50, 7 July 2014 (UTC)

Citing a book without page numbers[edit]

Does Wikipedia have a policy or guideline about citing a book without page numbers? This question was posed at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Humanities#Citing a book without page numbers (version of 00:48, 3 July 2014).
Wavelength (talk) 00:54, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Does it have sections or chapters? Are you using a citation template? You can use the "|loc=" parameter to indicate the location in the book. Less precise than what would be ideal, but acceptable. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 01:10, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
I recently had the same issue with a series of books in the "Trains in trouble" series. Volumes 1-6 are not numbered, so I cite the page as "Not numbered". Volumes 7 and 8 are numbered, and volume 8 has an index to all 8 volumes, giving the (not-printed) page numbers for the first 6 volumes. I was thus able to go back and add in the page numbers. Mjroots (talk) 06:08, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Please pardon how this might come across, but are you too lazy to just count the pages? Since virtually every book printed is ordinal in nature, not having printed page numbers should not stop you from properly citing it as a source. --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 15:28, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
So which page would you call page 1? The first page of text? The title page? And how helpful or practical is it if the unpaginated book is hundreds of pages long? Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 20:05, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
In my experience with the publishing industry, for practicality sake pagination (the formal term for page numbering) starts with the cover even if it is blank. --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 21:53, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
I believe the standard convention is to start the main pagination (with Arabic nunerals: 1, 2, ...) from the first page of text, and the pagination of the prefatory material (with lowercase Roman numerals: i, ii, ...) from the title page. But as Jc3s5h has noted, this is not the right place for this discussion. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:45, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

This is the wrong page for this discussion. If any discussion is required beyond that at the reference desk, it should be at WT:Citing sources. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:51, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Gender-neutral language[edit]

The rule Wikipedians follow in practice is more like the following:

Either gender-neutral language or generic "he" is acceptable; please don't change from one to the other without any impelling reason to do so.

Any thoughts on what WP:MOS should say?? Georgia guy (talk) 15:57, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

I'll bet there are. That's my two cents. InedibleHulk (talk) 16:16, July 3, 2014 (UTC)
I got to one in section 46 of Archive 100 after clicking on the link. Anyone able to reveal which rule is currently being followed in practice?? Georgia guy (talk) 16:25, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Didn't you start by revealing that? Editors do things one way unless they're compelled to do it another. Here's the closest thing I think we have to a written rule. InedibleHulk (talk) 16:44, July 3, 2014 (UTC)
The rule that we have on gender-neutral language is MOS:GNL; that is sufficient. If the vast majority of WP:Reliable sources regarding a topic don't use gender-neutral language, then I won't either, unless doing so in certain areas of the topic is needed; I defer to the sources, per WP:Due weight. Flyer22 (talk) 22:32, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
The MOS:GNL page says to use gender-neutral language, doesn't it?? Georgia guy (talk) 23:11, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
The MOS:GNL clearly notes exceptions (for example, it states "where this can be done with clarity and precision"); furthermore, it is a guideline. WP:Due weight is policy. And WP:Activism should be left at the door when editing Wikipedia; in other words, don't bring it to Wikipedia. Flyer22 (talk) 23:16, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Kind of like the rule can be re-worded as:

Either gender-neutral language or generic "he" is acceptable; if you wish to use gender-neutral language, please do so with clarity and precision; if you don't know how to do so, just use generic "he".

Georgia guy (talk) 23:46, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

No. Flyer22 (talk) 00:00, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
What's the difference (in meaning, not wording) between what the rule says and the re-wording I asked about?? Georgia guy (talk) 00:03, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
That you indicate that you don't see the difference is why I'm probably done replying to you about this matter. That, and because you have a tendency to let WP:Activism cloud your edits (as recently as this matter). Gender-neutral language can be fine, but it can also cause problems, as noted at Talk:Phimosis/Archive 2#Definition; that's why MOS:GNL makes exceptions and notes "clarity and precision" in addition to stating "This does not apply to direct quotations or the titles of works (The Ascent of Man), which should not be altered, or to wording about one-gender contexts, such as an all-female school (When any student breaks that rule, she loses privileges)." In fact, its exceptions aspect should probably be elaborated on to get across the point regarding objections to gender-neutral language for topics such as phimosis. Flyer22 (talk) 00:19, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
Personally, I don't think the MOS should say anything at all about the issue, one way or another. Mandating what words editors are to use strikes me as a case of WP:RIGHTGREATWRONGS. Hell, I have seen people use "she" as a generic pronoun, and it works fine. The key is to be consistent within the article... but beyond that, there is no need for an over arching "rule" that covers all articles. Blueboar (talk) 16:57, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Are there actually articles on Wikipedia that use generic "he"? I don't recall seeing any, and I'm pretty sure it would've jumped out at me—and at many, many other readers. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 20:16, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Probably. Just like there are articles that have unsourced BLP content, trivia sections and impenetrable grammar. Wikipedia standards not being consistently met isn't evidence that there isn't consensus in favour of them. Formerip (talk) 20:33, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
"Wikipedia standards not being consistently met": except, according to the above, generic "he" is a Wikipedia standard. Does the community really accept this? If we can't even find examples of this happening, then why is the MoS even talking about it? Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 20:59, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Oh yeah, my mistake. Still, by the same token, there probably are such articles. Formerip (talk) 21:15, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Actually not my mistake. I mistakenly identified a mistake I had made, but I hadn't made that mistake, so that was my mistake. The standard is as set out in the guideline. What's quoted at the top of this section is an imaginary guideline based on what we supposedly do. But practice doesn't override the guideline in cases like this, because it is always possible to find plenty of examples of guidelines not being applied. That was the point I was making before I got all mistaken. Formerip (talk) 23:25, 3 July 2014 (UTC)
Ah—I didn't realize that wasn't a quote from the actual MoS. All's right with the world. Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 00:13, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
In my experience, the use of masculine as neuter/indeterminate is in very sharp decline on WP as it is in off-wiki publishing and speech. I regularly convert it to neuter (though not with singular "they", in articles), and I cannot ever recall being reverted on this is almost nine years. Conversion can be challenging for some constructions, but is generally worth it, if for no other reasons than a) it's better to have wording that doesn't distract and irritate our female readers, and b) it's better to use wording now that won't make us look to very nearly everyone like antiquated, casually sexist jackasses within less than a generation. If we can do it right now, there's no reason not just because because some people, almost all of them old and male, don't really want to bother (or worse yet, refuse to cooperate because they think feminists need to STFU). PS: The easiest way to do it is to pluralize, so a they/their/theirs can be used. The second is to use a specific term in place of the singular pronoun, and use synonyms to avoid repetitiveness.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:35, 9 July 2014 (UTC)
I do not think we should endorse the generic "he." It's very old-fashioned and I personally find it sexist. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:19, 10 July 2014 (UTC)
I think MOS:GNL is OK as it stands. Is there any compelling evidence that this is not what is practised? --Boson (talk) 14:36, 10 July 2014 (UTC)


I think it would be a nice addition to include the WP logo in the lead section. Is there a policy rationale for not including the logo?OnBeyondZebrax (talk) 20:37, 7 July 2014 (UTC)

The WP logo is on the top left of each page by default, see no reason to add it here. --MASEM (t) 20:42, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict)You do know that the logo is permanently seen in the upper left hand corner don't you? Your placement of it on the page is entirely redundant and, IMO, we don't need to see it twice. MarnetteD|Talk 20:43, 7 July 2014 (UTC)

Editor retention, Signpost discussions of MOS[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussions elsewhere.

Participants here may be interested in Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Editor Retention#WikiProject Birds‎ and "downcasing" imposition, which is largely (and critically) about MOS. This started at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Birds#I'm out and spilled over into WP:Wikipedia Signpost/Newsroom/Suggestions#User:Natureguy1980.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:51, 8 July 2014 (UTC)