Boaty McBoatface



Boaty McBoatface? What????
British democracy has survived all sorts of things: the unraveling of the British Empire, independence movements in Ireland and Scotland, Prime Minister’s Questions. But never before has it confronted Boaty McBoatface.


The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.

Do we change behavior when we change language?

We touched on this in our last discussion, I thought it would be interesting to give it a closer look. Below are a bunch of excerpts from different internet articles that discuss aspects of this issue. As usual, we'll hash it out in the discussion :)

Does language shape how we think?
"Does your language shape how you think?" Linguists have gone back and forth on this question, explains Guy Deutscher in The New York Times. Back in 1940, an article by anthropologist Benjamin Lee Whorf floated the notion that "our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think." [This may not be true, but it still may be true that our mother tongue does affect us in what it makes us think about, for example:] English does not "habitually [oblige]" its speakers to consider gender. Its speakers "do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so." Likewise, English speakers do not think of chairs as masculine or feminine, although a Spanish or French speaker might. It turns out that this does have an effect:
"In recent years, various experiments have shown that grammatical genders can shape the feelings and associations of speakers toward objects around them. ... When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more "manly properties" like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant."