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Why ships and cars are "she"?

Posted by Roman Korolenko on January 05, 2003

Hello!

I'm a young researcher interested in the topic of gender and language. I know that in English the pronoun "she" could be referred to ships and cars. The conceptual analysis of the she-category brought me an unusual idea about the she-reference.

The analysis showed that there are at least six cognitive metaphors in the conceptual system that make us believe ships are feminine:

1. SHIP IS PREGANANT WOMAN
2. SHIP IS ATTRACTIVE WOMAN
3. BAPTIZM OF SHIP IS BAPTIZM OF HUMAN BEING
4. DECOMISSIONING OF SHIP IS DEATH
5. SHIP'S BODY IS HUMAN BODY
6. SHIP'S MOVEMENTS ARE BODY MOVEMENTS

The most prominent one is the first metaphor that can also be traced in cars. Ships, cars and women are "containers" that carry a load in themselves and finaly deliver it. Also ships and mothers secure the life of the load. The load is viewed as something precious.

These results of the analysis are so unusual that I want to put them on the agenda here looking forward to hearing your opinion.

Sincerely yours,
Roman Korolenko