There is a discussion going on in fr.lettres.langue.anglaise about the use in English of "she" and "her" for things which are not biologically female, such as cars and ships. Now, in French, a word has a gender, so that "une personne" ( = "a person" ) is "feminine" while "un écrivain" ( = "a writer" ) is "masculine," even if the person being referred to is a man and the writer being referred to is a woman. But in English, words do not have genders, with the exception of the pronouns "he" and "she" and pronouns and adjectives related to them.
It seems to me then, that it is appropriate to say "In English, for some people, ships are female" when one is speaking of the associated use of "she" and "her," but it is not appropriate to say "In English, for some people, ships are feminine." To speak of a ship as being feminine is something else altogether. There is nothing feminine, in my opinion, about the Enterprise in the television show *Star Trek: The Next Generation,* but when Captain Picard refers to it as "she," we could say that it was being treated as if it were female.
What is your opinion? Do you make the same distinction I do between referring to a ship as "female" and referring to it as "feminine"? Is it appropriate, in your opinion, to say "To Captain Picard, starships are female"?

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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It seems to me then, that it is appropriate to say "In English, for some people, ships are female" when ... Captain Picard refers to it as "she," we could say that it was being treated as if it were female.

I agree; speaking of ships as "she" or "her" is not at all the same thing as feminine gender of nouns in continental European languages. Mike Hardy
There is a discussion going on in fr.lettres.langue.anglaise about the use in English of "she" and "her" for things which ... and referring to it as "feminine"? Is it appropriate, in your opinion, to say "To Captain Picard, starships are female"?

I agree with you. A layman is unlikely to use the word "feminine" to mean "female".
Adrian
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It seems to me then, that it is appropriate to ... that it was being treated as if it were female.

I agree; speaking of ships as "she" or "her" is not at all the same thing as feminine gender of nouns in continental European languages. Mike Hardy

I wondered if "she" applied to a ship was a leftover from the time when Old English had nouns with gender. At Google I didn't get any confirmation of that suspicion, but I did find a place where there is misleading information about the genitive case in English.
The error results from being ignorant of the fact that the genitive case in English and other languages is not used only for possessive relationships. An erroneous statement in the query is
For example, I was writing "... I'm deliberately
leaving next week's evenings open for ...". So,
basically I personified a "week" and transferred
ownership of evenings to that week, thus the 's.
The responder's failure to correct the questioner's misconception suggests that he or she was also ignorant of the multiple uses of the English genitive. I would suggest that they both read an article entitled "genitive is not always possessive", which summarizes a fuller treatment of the subject in Bergen and Cornelia Evans's A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage . Seven genitive types are discussed, only one of which is used to indicate possession.

The URL for the exchange is
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=101213

The questioner is identified as "vigilare-ga"; the responder, "wayga-ga". A third participant, "carnegie-ga" does his or her bit to perpetuate the error. The discussion occurred in November 2002.
I wondered if "she" applied to a ship was a leftover from the time when Old English had nouns with gender.

According to Millward's A Biography of the English Language , in Old English "scip" and "bat" (respectively, 'ship' and 'boat') were neuter and masculine, respectively. The book has steered me wrong before, but I have no particular reason to doubt it in this case.
I would suggest that they both read an article entitled "genitive is not always possessive",

Hm. I think the above sentence has two readings with nearly opposite meanings depending on how "read" is pronounced. I infer from the context that you meant the infinitive-or-present reading of "read", not the past.

-Aaron J. Dinkin
Dr. Whom
I'd raher say a ship is feminist than feminine.
I have a legitimate question (I'm a non-native speaker of English): are there any inanimate things that are masculine in the English language? I know that country, car, ship and others are of female gender.
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There is a discussion going on in fr.lettres.langue.anglaise about the use in English of "she" and "her" for things which ... and referring to it as "feminine"? Is it appropriate, in your opinion, to say "To Captain Picard, starships are female"?

I agree with you entirely.
As a seperate matter, what about men'o'war; are they still female?
I would suggest that they both read an article entitled "genitive is not always possessive",

Hm. I think the above sentence has two readings with nearly opposite meanings depending on how "read" is pronounced. I infer from the context that you meant the infinitive-or-present reading of "read", not the past.

Sometime in recent weeks or months, I've written about spelling (ri:d) and (rEd) two different ways, both different from "read".
I thought of "rehd" for the past tense and "reed" for the infinitive and present tense. To me, "eh" says (E), but I've learned from AUE postings that some people, Canadians in particular, pronounce "eh" (eI) (the "ai" of "raid").

I'm now inclined to propose "redd" for the past tense. Would anyone pronounce it any way other than (rEd)?

It's too bad that "reed" is already a word, but other possibilities I've thought of also have flaws. "Ried" would probably be pronounced (raId) (rhymes with "died") by some people. People with knowledge of German would be tempted to pronounce "reid" also to rhyme with "died". "Reed" would probably be the best choice, unless someone can argue cogently that there might be a context that would not make clear whether the present tense or infinitive of "read" or some other verb or noun spelled "reed" is intended.

(Yes, there is a verb spelled "reed". It has to do with using reeds for certain purposes.)
Sometime in recent weeks or months, I've written about spelling (ri:d) and (rEd) two different ways, both different from "read". ... "raid"). I'm now inclined to propose "redd" for the past tense. Would anyone pronounce it any way other than (rEd)?

What's wrong with 'red'? The only problem you're trying to solve is the fact that there is an ambiguity in writing that isn't present in speech. You could even leave the p.p to be 'read', so the "book was re(a)d" would still only be ambiguous in speech.
Redd just doesn't look like an English word (a proper name maybe).
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