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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2002

Feminine tradition docked


LONDON - Ending centuries of seafaring tradition, a shipping industry newspaper said yesterday it will no longer refer to ships with the feminine pronoun "she."

Lloyd's List, which is one of the world's oldest daily publications, said it will refer to all vessels as "it."

In an editorial, the newspaper said it was time to "bring the paper into line with most other reputable international business titles."

"I decided that it was time to catch up with the rest of the world, and most other news organizations refer to ships as neuter," said editor Julian Bray.

But, he added, "I don't think there is anything wrong with calling ships 'she' in conversation. It's a respectable maritime tradition."

The move is expected to stir debate among the newspaper's 10,000 readers worldwide.

Mr. Bray, 38, said he is expecting a "full and vibrant array of letters."

Pieter van der Merwe, general editor at the Greenwich Maritime Museum at Greenwich, in London, opposed the decision.

"It is a chip out of the wall of a particular cultural sector," he said. "You can say it's a small thing, but small things mount up."

James Hartung, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, said issues like the gender of vessels distract people from more serious considerations.

"It's all part of the continual movement toward over-doing political correctness," he said. "We're all going to have to go, 'Oops!' every time we call a ship 'she.'"

Mr. Van der Merwe said the tradition of calling ships "she" grew out of sailors' affection for their vessels.

A Royal Navy spokesman said the navy would continue to use the female pronoun. "It's not just a sentimental thing but a part of culture," he said.

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