Posted by Markitos on August 08, 2001

In Reply to: "She" posted by Q on August 08, 2001

: : Why are certain vessels (boats, automobiles) called she. Why are they known in a feminine way. For example "she is a beauty" when referring to a new car.

: Because you have to treat them like a lady or they will act up and cause havoc.

The concept of gender in English nouns has little use--it gets more of a workout in other languages like Spanish, German and French. where the gender controls the form of the noun depending on the case in which it is used (subject, object, etc.), whether it's plural, etc. Most nouns referring to inanimate objects in English are neutral, in other words, they're "its." For animate creatures, unless the sex is known, the default gender tends to be female (as in, "Nice fish you caught there, Earl," "Yep, she's a beauty.") Cars, boats, and musical instruments have a liminal quality as objects that causes us to engender them female (perhaps for reasons that would sound atavistically sexist if argued--see last follow-up)....Note that this convention has been transgressed in the case of hurricanes (which are now proportionately himacanes)....