The naming of a child – or boat or pet or anything that becomes a part of the family (yes, I know this is purposely provocative!) is a momentous decision for the owner, the thing and is part of a long-standing tradition in many cultures. Re-naming is variously seen as something that shouldn’t ever occur, to being ok if done “correctly”, through to not mattering at all.
While naming/re-naming is fraught with cultural differences (if you care about them), the name itself is an important tradition in many cultures. A warship called “Invincible” is viewed differently to one called “Cheerful” or “Dainty“! Amazingly “Cockchafer” has been attached to four warships, perhaps indicating a change in the use of language over time…
While talking names, it’s important to note the use of a female pronoun (“she”) for boats. There is lots of information about this, but a nice summary is:
Since the beginning of recorded history, man has used water crafts to travel and explore the world. Each civilization has its own traditions regarding naming boats, but they are most often feminine names. While it is not known exactly why ships are named after female figures, there are two prominent theories. One hypothesizes that boats were named after goddesses and other mythical figures, and later shifted to popular feminine names as recognition of gods and goddesses faded. The second major theory focuses on the basis of European languages. A number of languages, such as German and French, have a complex system of gender involving grammatical terms in which objects are assigned specific masculine or feminine tones. Olde English also used this system of naming, with many inanimate objects such as boats referred to in the feminine form. As the English language changed and evolved, the tradition of using this feminine form for ship names continued and is still present today.
Interestingly, Lloyds of London while young at “only” a few hundred years old, decided in 2002 to use “it” for ships rather than she. Media of the time noted though:
[Lloyds said] “However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling ships ‘she’ in conversation. It’s a respectable maritime tradition.”…
A spokesman for the Royal Navy said it would continue to refer to ships as female. It traditionally chooses masculine or geographical names, such as Iron Duke or Lancaster, for its vessels – although Andromeda, Penelope and Minerva all served in the Falklands War.
“Lloyd’s List can do what it wants. The Royal Navy will continue to call its ships ‘she’ as we always have done. It’s historic and traditional,” he said.
“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.”
I could not find much about other cultures’ naming, but one report on Chinese ship naming history shows historical names like “Pure Harmony”, “Bestowing Peace”, “Clear Distance”, “Galloping Horse” and even “Big Ship”. Apparently the ship names were not as important – at least for chroniclers – as in parts of Europe.
Anyway… after quite some time thinking about it, we chose the name Blu Emu for our boat. We chose it because:
- Has two legs, and is one of only two birds in the world which has two feathers of the same length from the same quill (a catamaran has two hulls)
- Is fast (our catamaran has high L:B ratio 12.3:1 and semi-displacement hulls)
- Can travel great distances (we want to go around the world including cold areas)
- It is said that there are up to 12 different color layers in an emu egg making it very unique. There are three primary layers in the shell of an emu egg. The outside is dark green. The middle layer is teal, and the inside layer is nearly white. Occasionally there is a fourth layer, which is thin and rather gray, between the outside layer and the teal layer. The teal and blue are actually as many as seven subtle layers of color, each about the thickness of a sheet of paper. (teal/blue = ocean)
- Is quintessentially Australian – it even appears on the Australian coat of arms [did you know that there are two animals on the Australian coat of arms – the emu and the kangaroo, and that these were chosen as being endemic to Australia and are also the only two animals that cannot go backwards! An even more interesting note is that the Kangaroo is supposed to be demonstrably male – which the logo below does not show…]
- Shortening of Blue, referring to blue water/ocean capable
- Quintessentially Australian slang (meaning red or reddish, esp of hair; but the important part is Australian)
We also like to think “Blu Emu” can be written as “Blue mu”, which leads to:
- Mu was derived from the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for water, which had been simplified by the Phoenicians and named after their word for water
- Mu means a reduced mass (light catamaran) in the Two-Body System (a catamaran has two hulls)
- Mu means a magnetic dipole moment (a dipole has 2 pole, like a catamaran’s two hulls)
- Mu is the prefix given in IUPAC nomenclature for a bridging ligand (which is a ligand that connects two or more atoms, usually metal ions – which sounds remarkably like an aluminium catamaran!)