City Desk

He’s a Lady…Whoa, Whoa Whoa…He’s a Lady

George W. Bush made his last trip as Commander in Chief over the weekend. He went to Norfolk, Va., to christen the U.S. Navy's newest aircraft carrier.

Here's the Cliff's Notes version of the President's speech:

The aircraft carrier which we commission today may be the Navy's newest ship — but she has already had an interesting past. Her catapult testing took place during an unseasonable cold snap. Her christening was thrown into chaos by a fierce nor'easter. And during construction, the shipyard was closed down because of Hurricane Isabel...She will carry nearly 6,000 of the finest sailors and Marines in the world. She represents the craftsmanship of many skilled builders, and thousands of hours of preparation...She's also a tribute to a new generation of American soldiers and sailors and Coast Guardsmen and women, airmen and Marines who have stepped forward to defend the United States America...I ask that God protect this ship, and let her know only victory and peace. And I ask God's continued blessings on our wonderful nation. Thank you.

I listened to some of the address, and it really came through that President Bush was talking about one helluva lady.

The lady's name? "The USS George H.W. Bush."

So why does the military only name its warships after men, but always refers to them as women?

I mean, did Bill Parcells come up with this policy?

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  • cljo

    It should be noted that this is not just an American phenomenon nor is it restricted to the military. Ships, regardless of use, are referred to as 'she.'

    A common explanation is that the word for ship and boat is a feminine noun in most Indo-European languages. Others note that giving ships male names was a relatively rare occurrence until recently.

    The internet is filled with discussion on this issue, but no one really knows.

  • Mr T in DC

    The worst thing about the naming conventions of US Navy warships is the abandonment of the historic, traditional names in favor of not-even-dead-yet politicians. Recent examples include the submarines Jimmy Carter and John Warner, as well as the Bush and future Gerald Ford. All the great aircraft carrier names are vanishing, replaced by mediocre politicians; no more Lexington and Saratoga, Yorktown, Hornet, and Wasp. These are the names that turned the tide in the Pacific, who held the line after Pearl Harbor. Once the USS Enterprise is retired, and replaced by a newer aircraft carrier, it will sadly be called something like the Donald Rumsfeld or the Bill Clinton, and the name Enterprise will disappear from the navy rolls for the first time in decades. Please, stick to the classics, US Navy...