Boat and Ship.

The Merriam-Webster blog has a post on an interesting topic: What’s the Difference Between a ‘Boat’ and a ‘Ship’?:

‘What is the difference between a ship and a boat?’ has a good number of answers, but unfortunately most of these are not couched in the type of precise language a dictionary aims for. Sample responses to this question include ‘You can put a boat onto a ship, but you can’t put a ship onto a boat,’ ‘a boat is what you get into when the ship sinks,’ and ‘a boat is the thing you put gravy in.’

If you were to look for precision by asking this question of ten nautically-inclined people in ten different areas it is possible that you would get a wide range of answers, for the exact moment at which a boat becomes a ship varies considerably. We define ship in the following ways: “a large seagoing vessel,” “a sailing vessel having a bowsprit and usually three masts each composed of a lower mast, a topmast, and a topgallant mast,” and “boat (especially one propelled by power or sail)”. Boat has a slightly narrower semantic range, including “a small vessel for travel on water,” and “ship.”

Usage writers appear to have been warning people about these words since the late 19th century; boat appears on James Gordon Bennett’s “Don’t List” in the New York Herald, with instruction to avoid “except in describing a small craft propelled by oars.” […]

Despite the fact that we’ve been receiving admonitions about boat and ship for over a century now, many people cheerfully insist on using boat for waterborne vessels of any size. However, few, if any, use ship to refer to small crafts. If you find that you are unable to remember the which is the larger between ship and boat it may help to sing the children’s song Row Your Boat (“row, row, row your ship” sounds decidedly odd — small oared crafts are almost always referred to as boats). No matter how many aphorisms we come up with, it seems unlikely that we are going to get much more specific than ‘ships are bigger than boats.’

Considering that our language has hundreds of words for different kinds of things that float on the water it is somewhat odd that we should focus exclusively on the difference between only these two. Should you find yourself beset by an angry sailor who calls you out for using boat when you should have used ship you may turn and ask if they know the difference between a xebec and an umiak, a corvette and a wherry, or an argosy and a garvey (the first ones are all ships and the second ones all boats).

I always enjoy finding examples of such common but hard-to-define words.

Comments

  1. The quiz-show podcast “Go Fact Yourself” has a segment precisely on defining common but hard-to-define words. It’s a lot of fun, and I will admit, I often get them wrong. Some recent examples:

    What’s the difference between a battleship and a destroyer?
    What’s the difference between a church and a cathedral?
    What’s the difference between a bull and an ox?
    What’s the difference between a teapot and a coffee pot?

  2. The OED knows nothing of garvey, but Merriam-Webster has it: “a small scow especially of the New Jersey coast.” I now wonder whether Gibson giving the Rastafarians’ space tug in Neuromancer the name “Marcus Garvey” was an additional pun.

  3. Savalonôs says:

    Isn’t a destroyer much smaller than a battleship?

  4. …or the difference between an aak and a zumbra.

  5. AJP Crown says:

    My grandfather said that a ship has a deck and a boat doesn’t. He was a nautical gent and he didn’t like people calling ships ‘boats,’ nor did the cruiseline boss when I was designing bits of cruise ships. It may be that sailors etc. find boat disparaging.

    If you find that you are unable to remember which is the larger between ship and boat, you should see a doctor.

  6. SFReader says:

    Beside a man, you are much the same as a joiner beside a cabinetmaker.

    A drunk carpenter says this to his dog Kashtanka in Chekhov’s short story.

    In Russian original, the terms are plotnik and stolyar – nobody really knows the difference between these occupations (both are some sort of carpentry), but apparently to some people it’s as fundamental a difference as between a human and a dog.

  7. Kate Bunting says:

    It’s a long time since I’ve crossed the English Channel by ferry as a foot passenger, so I don’t know if this is still the case, but traditionally you travelled to the port on a ‘boat train’ and on arrival you saw a big sign saying TO THE BOATS.

  8. “My grandfather said that a ship has a deck and a boat doesn’t.”

    The thing is that for every rule like that you’ll be able to find irritating exceptions. A Viking longship doesn’t have a deck, but is it a boat? A modern ship’s lifeboat has a deck; is it a ship? Sailing boats, except the very smallest, tend to have decks; are they ships? For that matter, a punt has a deck at the front (or at the back if you went to Cambridge). And, though we had a college Admiral of Punts, I don’t think even she would have referred to the vessels under her command as ships.

    “Isn’t a destroyer much smaller than a battleship?”

    Generally, yes, though modern destroyers are now much bigger than the first battleships (and no one has battleships in service now, except as museum ships). Ship type names tend to stick around even though they’re being used for radically different sorts of ship. A destroyer was originally a torpedo-boat destroyer; if you’ve got a large and expensive battleship, the last thing you want is some ghastly foreigner steaming up in a small fast boat and launching a couple of torpedoes at it. So you build TBDs; a slightly larger but still very fast ship that can catch and sink torpedo boats, or at least keep them out of torpedo range of your fleet. Then it makes sense to put torpedoes on your TBDs as well; after all, they’re small and fast so they may as well be torpedo-boats themselves. But then you find your TBDs fighting the other side’s TBDs, so you need bigger destroyers; (by this time a more accurate name would be TBDDs but everyone’s shortened it to “destroyer”).
    Then you find yourself worrying about aircraft; and, look, you’ve already got these fast ships with lots of rapid-firing guns, ideal for anti-aircraft work. And then you make them a bit bigger so they can carry missiles and radar and things as well and you end up with a thing about ten times the size of the TBD you started with back in 1890, but it’s still called a “destroyer”.

    Something similar happened with “corvette” and “frigate” and “cruiser”, for that matter.

  9. cf. wharf-quay-pier-jetty.

    Easy. The Isle of Man has a House of Quays and the British Parliament has a House of Piers. (Representing Britain’s trading and maritime interests, of course; the competing interests of the graziers and herdsmen on open land are represented by the House of Commons).

  10. And it is of course a grievous solecism to refer to a submarine as a ship; they’re boats (even though some of them are as big as aircraft carriers, and all of them, for reasons which it would be otiose to rehearse, have decks).

  11. AJP Crown says:

    A lifeboat has a deck; is it a ship? Sailing boats, except the very smallest, tend to have decks; are they ships? For that matter, a punt has a deck at the front

    Ajay, you’re right of course. Lifeboats started deckless so got the -boat name. Large sailing vessels are ships and smaller ones are boats, so size comes into it, but for example a lighter or barge is a big boat perhaps because it’s mostly deckless. A canal narrowboat has two sort-of decks but maybe they don’t really count. There may be a wood-construction criterion that says what constitutes a deck, the flat flooring for example or the framing. I’m not sure the platform you stand on at the end of a punt is really a deck, is it? I wonder if the Venetians call them boats or ships. This site has a great selection of different craft:
    http://www.thepirateking.com/ships/ship_types.htm

  12. Cf. boatmanship & seamanship.

  13. AJP Crown says:

    Ok, das Boot, but why are there no spaceboats, only spaceships? A: Because enclosed decks.

    What’s the difference is between a flying boat and a seaplane? I think only a flying boat has its hull in the water.

    The world’s biggest boat on Earth seems to be Russian:
    https://www.naval-technology.com/features/feature-the-worlds-biggest-submarines/

  14. Shipshape; boatshape.

  15. Savalonôs says:

    Yet, somehow, in the Xy McXface construction, Shippy McShipface sounds unnatural to me, a native speaker.

  16. Well, whatever floats their ship.

  17. Breffni says:

    In ordinary usage boat and ship are imprecise terms; that doesn’t mean dictionaries have to be imprecise, they just have to be precise about the imprecision. But what made me purse my lips was “small oared crafts”. Crafts? With an S? So I asked MWDEU:

    A few commentators remind us that when the noun craft means boat, aircraft, or spacecraft, the plural is usually the uninflected plural craft, although crafts is sometimes also used. This information is in your dictionary.

    Ouch. Sorry to have bothered you, sir.

  18. David L says:

    There’s the metaphorical ship of state. A boat of state sounds much less impressive, not the sort of thing you would want to board. Like the present Teresa May govt, perhaps.

  19. AJP Crown: Having recently reread Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure novels, where much of the plot focuses on trying to recover or steal or build a small space-going craft, Vance consistently uses the term “space boat.”. Vance was a sailing enthusiast, and he may have maintained the boat-ship distinction in other works as well. (I do not remember.)

    Star Wars, on the other hand, is utterly inconsistent about starship terminology. The main imperial vessels are “star destroyers,” but Han Solo refers to one as a “cruiser.” Moreover, Darth Vader’s command ship (with about a thousand times the displacement) is “super star destroyer.”

  20. January First-of-May says:

    Russian лодка and корабль correspond fairly well to English “boat” and “ship” respectively (including space ships and submarine boats), with only one big exception I could think of offhand – the objects typically referred to as “toy boats” in English are literally “toy ships” in Russian (if usually with a diminutive suffix on the “ship” word).

    There are probably other smaller exceptions that I couldn’t think of immediately.

  21. J.W. Brewer says:

    An important intermediate lexical step toward spaceship may well have been “airship” in the sense of dirigible/zeppelin/etc. See also Luftschiff -> Raumschiff auf Deutsch, and no doubt parallel progressions in other tongues. “Airboat” is also a noun in AmEng, but referring to a very different sort of thing which is not actually airborne, and which I am advised by the internet may have been foreshadowed by the Russian contraption known as the aэросани.

  22. January First-of-May says:

    the Russian contraption known as the aэросани

    …which is to say, “air-sledge” – not to be confused an air sleigh, which is what Santa Claus has.

  23. John Cowan says:

    What’s the difference is between a flying boat and a seaplane?

    As I understand it, a flying boat is non-amphibious seaplane; that is, it can only land on the water. They tend to be bigger than other seaplanes, because they need not support their weight on landing gear but distribute it over the whole hull, which is buoyant. As such, they combine the cargo capacity (nearly) of an airship with the speed of an airplane, and are nowadays mostly used for jobs like dumping water on forest fires.

    The Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia, my local airport, was used in the 1940s for passengers to and from Europe by flying boat. Later, the Pan Am Shuttle (now the Delta Shuttle) to Boston and Washington provided water-taxi service (which should really be called water-bus service, as it’s scheduled) from the terminal to Wall Street. It still serves the Shuttle, non-scheduled flights, commuter airlines, and so forth, though it is now boringly known as “Terminal A”.

  24. John Cowan says:

    Cf. boatmanship & seamanship

    “From Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth Sound / two twenty miles we ran / In eighteen hours, my bully boys / now beat that if you can / The crew said it was seamanship / The skipper he kept mum / But the force that drove our vessel / Was the power of Portland rum ….”

  25. AJP Crown says:

    Darth Vader’s command ship (with about a thousand times the displacement) is “super star destroyer.”

    Brett, what kind of displacement? Not water, presumably.

    JC, is the Staten Island ferry a boat or a ship? I’d say ship is a bit of a stretch. I think I’d refer to it as a boat. Perhaps it’s just a vessel.

  26. Stu Clayton says:
  27. Bathrobe says:

    “Trains and boats and planes” should really have been “trains and ships and planes”, I suspect.

    I mean trains can take you a long way, and so can planes, but really, how far is the guy going to go on a boat?

  28. John Cowan says:

    JC, is the Staten Island ferry a boat or a ship?

    Ferry boat is a pretty universal collocation: *ferry ship is impossible.

    how far is the guy going to go on a boat?

    As far as I know, the longest ferry route is from Tomsk to Salekhard on the Ob’ river, a whopping 2783 km. It runs only for 2-3 months a year when the river is clear of ice, and takes six days. I don’t know how many stops it makes. You can change for another ferry at Salekhard that takes you a further 715 km to Antipayuta. All of which shows how huge, and how underserved, Siberia actually is.

    The longest seagoing ferry route is from Bellingham, Alaska, to Homer, Alaska, 2219 km away. But it’s a pretty marginal case of a ferry, since it only runs three times a year. Bergen-Kirkenes is 1541 km in airline distance, but the sea mileage is of course much greater; again, though, it’s a marginal case, taking 12 days and making (by my count) 30 intermediate stops while running up the Norwegian coast. However, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland to Hirtshals, Denmark (with a stop at Tórshavn in the Faeroes) is 1504 km, which is pretty hefty and the sort of thing you’d think of as an ocean-going ferry: it runs weekly and takes 54 hours each way. It’s the only way at present to get a car on or off the Faeroes.

    Of course, some of these very-long-haul ferries are more cruise ships (or, in the winter, container ships) than classic ferries. The Staten Island Ferry runs a mere 8.4 km in 25 minutes and no longer takes cars since 9/11 (it would be too hard to check them all for IEDs). It makes up for this by running every 30 minutes 24/7/365 (more often in rush hour) and as a result carrying 24 million passengers a year, the most of any ferry service. It is free to all passengers. There are currently eight boats in four classes, with displacements from 500 to 3000 gross tons. It is the only form of mass transit that serves Staten Island (unless you count taxis), though another ferry route running from S.I. up the West Side of Manhattan will begin in 2020.

    Here’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s 1919 poem “Recuerdo”:

    We were very tired, we were very merry—
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
    It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
    But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
    We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
    And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

    We were very tired, we were very merry—
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
    And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
    From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
    And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
    And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

    We were very tired, we were very merry,
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
    We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
    And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
    And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
    And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

    In those days the ferry cost a nickel ($0.05, between 75 cents and twice that much today, depending on how you figure it) and so did the subway. Today the subway, as well as the other ferries in the city system (there are private ones as well) costs $2.75, but you can make a free transfer between subways and buses within two hours, so a single fare will take you from Tottenville at the southern tip of Staten Island to Far Rockaway on a peninsula in southeasternmost Queens by Jamaica Bay, about 64 km away. This particular route includes a causeway across the bay, making the A train perhaps the only seagoing subway train in the world.

  29. AJP Crown says:

    Three Men in a Ship sounds like a mystery story.

    The French le paquebot is an ocean liner like what they had in the olden days to cross the Atlantic in, but it comes from packet boat. A packet boat carried packets, ie mail. I think it was more of a packet ship.

    This particular route includes a causeway across the bay, making the A train perhaps the only seagoing subway train in the world.

    I remember it. It’s great. Another similar experience is the train into Venezia Santa Lucia. Not a subway train, that.

  30. J.W. Brewer says:

    The official website of the S.I. Ferry is not entirely consistent. For example, in describing the components of its fleet it has a heading “Barberi Class boats,” the text under which begins: “There are two ships in this class, Andrew J. Barberi and the Samuel I. Newhouse.”

  31. Hold byen ren, følg en svensker til færgen! (We do like the Swedes, our fraternal people, except when they beat us at soccer or clutter up the nightlife).

    Beer is cheaper in Denmark, and you can get it at 7/11 around the clock. But you should try Norway, the pizzas cost what the combined meal would cost in Sweden, and so do the beers.

  32. Packet is another term that comes up frequently in Vance.

  33. Short for packet-boat, “A boat or ship travelling at regular intervals between two ports, originally for the conveyance of mail, later also of goods and passengers; a mailboat…. Originally used of the boat which carried ‘the packet’ of state letters and dispatches, chiefly between England and Ireland.”

    1642 H. Peters True Rel. Voy. Ireland 14 The Evening our packet-boat came in called the Rafe, by whom we had newes from Limrick and other parts from my Lords Castell Steward, who writ for supply, which accodingly was sent him.

    a1670 J. Hacket Scrinia Reserata (1693) ii. ii. 5 Posts and Pacquets.
    1697 W. Dampier New Voy. around World vii. 171 Here we staid till the 6th day reading the Letters, by which we understood that the Armada from Old Spain was come to Portabel; and that the President of Panama had sent this Pacquet on purpose to hasten the Plate Fleet thither from Lima.

  34. Trond Engen says:

    If the ship – boat distinction is anything like the Norwegian distinction of skip and båt, and to my non-native ear it certainly is, there’s an obvious correlation to size, but I think it’s actually a question of technical register. A more technical term is more likely to be used the farther the vessel is removed from everyday human experience. A hangarskip is never a hangarbåt but a supertanker is certainly a tankbåt. Norway has never built a hangarship and hardly anybody in Norway has ever seen one, but we were world leaders in oil transport until 1980 or so.

    Also, båt can refer to a line or a service rather than the specific ship. Norwegian emigrants took Amerikabåten, no matter which line or ship.

    Bergen-Kirkenes is 1541 km in airline distance, but the sea mileage is of course much greater; again, though, it’s a marginal case, taking 12 days and making (by my count) 30 intermediate stops while running up the Norwegian coast.

    6 days each way. I used to be able to list all the stops (if not by heart so by map memory), but I’m not sure I can do that anymore.

    Bergen – Florø – Måløy – Torvik – Ålesund – Molde – Kristiansund – Trondheim – Rørvik – Brønnøysund – Sandnessjøen – Nesna – Ørnes – Bodø – Stamsund – Svolvær – Stokmarknes – Sortland – … (eh, what’s that place on Andøya called, and is it still on the schedule?) – Harstad – Finnsnes – Tromsø – Skjervøy – Hammerfest – Havøysund – Honningsvåg – Gamvik – Berlevåg – Vardø – Vadsø – Kirkenes. That’s 28 or 29 intermediate stops. There are some smaller ports in Finnmark I thought were taken off the route after they were connected to the next port by a reliable road. Some could still be in use .. Øksfjord? Kjøllefjord? Mehamn? Båtsfjord?

    Since the main direction of travel is not across anything, it’s not considered a ferje by Norwegian standards but a rutebåt. It’s more of a cruiseline these days than a passenger service, though there are still a few people who rely on it for trips between coastal communities, especially in the northern end of the route. Some passasjerbåter that are ferjer are Kielferja (Oslo – Kiel), Danskebåten (Oslo – København) and various lines connecting Norwegian ports to Swedish and Danish harbours.

    However, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland to Hirtshals, Denmark (with a stop at Tórshavn in the Faeroes) is 1504 km

    The Smyril Line. This is a real ferry. When my family lived in Bergen it went Hirtshals – Bergen – Lerwick – Tórshavn – Seyðisfjörður. Not too sure about Hirtshals, actually. We always meant to take it one summer but never got around to it.

    The last passenger ferry to cross the North Sea from Norway was Bergen – Stavanger – Newcastle, another boat I never got on when living in Bergen, but friends of mine used to take it off-season for heavy doses of beer and football.

  35. Kristiansund

    This is to me irrevocably connected with the tune (and live album) “The Seagulls of Kristiansund” by Mal Waldron (Wikipedia, YouTube).

  36. AJP Crown says:

    That’s a good record.
    Kristiansund shouldn’t be confused with Kristiansand, a bigger place at the bottom where half of Oslo spends its summer. I only realised there were two of them after I noticed people emphasise the final syllable, KristianSAND. Or Kristiania, the old name for Oslo. I think they’re all named after Christian IV. Some people (me) would prefer they were spelled with a Ch but it ain’t gonna happen.

  37. Trond Engen says:

    I checked the answers now, The place on Andøya is called Risøyhamn and is still on the schedule. Øksfjord is also on, as is Kjøllefjord and Båtsfjord, but not Gamvik. That makes five errors out of … 31, I think.

    Kristiansund is said to owe its name to a misinterpretation by Danish clerks (or whoever, but those are the ones we blame up here) of older Fosn as Foss-sund “Waterfalls Sound”. The sound is there, so it’s an easy mistake to make, though I don’t believe that’s exactly what happened. I rather think that an unattested name of the sound, Fosnsund, was interpreted (by Danish clerks (or whoever, but …)) as Fossund. Either way, the waterfalls made it into the town’s coat of arms by the rebus principle. Not bad for a place built on a small island almost without fresh water.

  38. John Cowan says:

    hangarship

    Aircraft carrier. And no anglophone would call an oil tanker of any size a boat.

    (eh, what’s that place on Andøya called, and is it still on the schedule?)

    Risøyhamn, and it is.

    Harstad – Finnsnes – Tromsø – Skjervøy – Hammerfest – Havøysund – Honningsvåg

    And then Kjøllefjord – Mehamn – Berlevåg – Båtsfjord. There’s an asterisk after Honningsvåg on the map I’m looking at, which is not explained.

    Gamvik– Vardø – Vadsø – Kirkenes.

    No Gamvik (reminds me of course of Gamwich, the translated name of Sam Gamgee’s ancestors) nor Øksfjord anywhere on the list: from Båtsfjord to Vardø nonstop. But a pretty amazing feat of memory!

    I can do similar things with NYC subway lines, but then I take a lot of them, some every day. Integer sequence #54 is the local stops on the 8th Avenue line: 4, 14, 23, 34, 42, 50, 59, 72, 81, 86, 96, 103, 110, 116, 125, 135, 145, 155, 163, 168, 175, 181, 190, 200, 207. A classic riddle is to ask for the next element in this sequence: 14, 18, 23, 28, 34, ?. The answer is Times Square, though OEIS #53 of course gives it as 42. It’s especially tricky because only one other line has a 28th Street stop, and the 18th Street stop on that line was abandoned in 1948, so this 18th Street is unique. The underlying sequence 14, 23, 34, 42, 59, 72 represents the east-west streets at which Broadway, which is diagonal, intersects the north-south avenues: these streets are widened relative to the others.

  39. January First-of-May says:

    Bergen – Florø – Måløy – Torvik – Ålesund – Molde – Kristiansund – Trondheim – Rørvik – Brønnøysund – Sandnessjøen – Nesna – Ørnes – Bodø – Stamsund – Svolvær – Stokmarknes – Sortland – … (eh, what’s that place on Andøya called, and is it still on the schedule?) – Harstad – Finnsnes – Tromsø – Skjervøy – Hammerfest – Havøysund – Honningsvåg – Gamvik – Berlevåg – Vardø – Vadsø – Kirkenes. That’s 28 or 29 intermediate stops.

    I’m surprised not to see Narvik on this list. Which one of those is Narvik?

    (Source for why Narvik in particular: a vaguely remembered line in Karel Čapek’s Scandinavian travelogue involving ferry, or possibly cruise liner, stopovers in Bodø, Narvik and Tromsø.
    That would have been in 1935 or ’36 – one of the last trips of DS Haakon Adalstein, whose name also shows up in the travelogue.)

  40. John Cowan says:

    Kristiansund is in fact named after Kristian VI, the great-great-grandson of Kristian IV, but the other two are the elder monarch’s doing all right, as are Kristianopel and Kristianstad (now part of Sweden after the Late Great Unpleasantness of 1658), Kristianshavn (now part of Copenhagen), and Kristianspris, a fort near Kiel (lost in the Other Unpleasantness of 1866).

    The righteous spellings would be Christianssand, Christianssund with the good old Germanic genitive.

  41. AJP Crown says:

    John, what about 57th Street?

  42. Trond Engen says:

    J1M: I’m surprised not to see Narvik on this list. Which one of those is Narvik?

    Narvik is not on the list. It’s near the inner end of Ofotfjorden. The line follows a more coastal route through the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands. Narvik would be connected to the line by local lines to Bodø, Svolvær or Harstad.

    I read that Narvik actually was on the schedule between 1936 and 1953. I guess this inner route would replace Stokmarknes, Sortland and Risøyhamn in Vesterålen with Lødingen and Narvik in Ofoten. I don’t know if that was a daily service or a couple of days a week.

    John C.: Kristiansund is in fact named after Kristian VI

    ‘Course. Thanks. Kristian VI also gave his name to Christiansted on the Virgin Islands. Christiansborg in Accra is named for king Kristian V. (The best of these names is Frederiksnagore, modern Serampore in India.)

  43. Trond Engen says:

    Hat: “The Seagulls of Kristiansund” by Mal Waldron

    Heh. Never heard it. Never even heard of it. Never even heard of Mal Waldron. And that’s strange for a country that wallows in whatever token of affection we can find.

    Looking for a connection to Norway, I find a paywalled Aftenposten article by the Norwegian critic and composer Synne Skouen about the night in the early seventies when Miles Davis had gone sour with his band and spent the wee hours of the morning talking about music in her tiny bedsit in Vienna after having been dumped there by a common acquaintance. A couple of years later, Miles Davis called her parents in Oslo, and her father asked him to spell his name. The call was an effort to track down Mal Waldron, who she also knew from Vienna and who was in Oslo at the time. Mal Waldron went to see “Lady Sings the Blues” with her and her family and was quietly upset with the racial bias in its characterizations.

    The only music I knew that refers to Kristiansund is this little gem of family entertainment from the seventies. The map and the singers and the main characters of the song are all from Trondheim. My friend from Kristiansund doesn’t like it.

  44. January First-of-May says:

    The line follows a more coastal route through the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands.

    Oh, right, those. For some reason I thought that they were a lot farther south, and/or that Narvik was a lot farther north.

    Incidentally, is it true (as Karel Čapek also reported) that the boundary between those two archipelagoes cuts some of the islands in half?
    (Specifically, as far as I can tell, this would be the Hinnøya and the… “Estvågøy”, I think. Not sure if that last one was supposed to be Vestvågøy or Austvågøy.)

  45. David Marjanović says:

    The German Schiff/Boot distinction is similar, but again not identical: anything larger than a Fischerboot must be a ship, and that includes all ferries.

    Boot is a Low German loan, and I bet so is båt whose vowel doesn’t make sense otherwise. Those on the Danube still aren’t called Boot, but Zille.

    *skip-, amazingly, is also a loan: into Proto-Northwest-Germanic or thereabouts, from Latin scyphus. The *p dates it to before the mid-2nd century, the age of the oldest FILIPPVS in a graffito.

  46. Trond Engen says:

    The geographical archipelagos are different from the old administrative and ecclesiastic districts. On the Norwegian coast, the fjords are the roads (as the etymology of the word ‘fjord’ implies), and the inland mountain ranges are borders. Lofoten and Vesterålen are exceptional in being so alone that there’s no importants border running along the ridges until you get to the innermost end, where the northern part of Austvågøy and the Western part of Hinnøya belongs to Vesterålen and the soutwestern part of Hinnøya til Lofoten. The southern part of Hinnøya belongs to Ofoten (with Narvik) and the northeastern part to the district of Senja (now in Troms fylke). The parish of Kvæfjord, surrounding the eponymous fjord cutting into the center of the island from the northern side, is a region of its own in many ways, though traditionally part of Senja.

    The name Lofoten, ON Lófótr, iwas originally the name of Vestvågøy and is usually explained as “lynx foot”, Austvågøy was called Vargfótr “wolf foot”, and the fjord name Ofoten, ON Ófótr, may be from úfr “owl”. I like the hypothesis, but I’m not sure how well-founded it is. can also mean “plain near water”, and the element fótr is elsewhere used for fjord names, so perhaps it was originally the name of the district around one of the fjords on the island, e.g. Leknesfjorden in the west..

  47. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, båt is odd, but bátr m. is already in ON and older than Low German. I’ve suspected it was borrowed from Frisian at the time the Norse learned to use the sail. There’s a rare doublet beit n. “vessel, ship” corresponding to Eng. boat.

    I’ve never heard that skip was borrowed, and it sounds odd (though I see how that too could have come with the sail). And why would they borrow a rare-ish Greek loan for “cup” and use it for “large boat”?

    Bjorvand & Lindeman derive skip from IE *sk’ey- “split, cut” and explain it semantically as a term for boats built with planks as opposed to those made from hollow trees. But that’s also a bit odd, now that I think of it. The verb skipa “organize, equip” is used widely for all sorts of real or metaphorical structures, and I’d expect the core meaning to be “rig” or “put together”. The verb seems to be in ablaut relationship to skapa “make, create”. ON skapa and its cognates have according to B&L a confused paradigm with elements of both strong and weak conjugation. Maybe skipa is a folk-reetymologization of the weak j-verb.

  48. AJP Crown says:

    why would they borrow a rare-ish Greek loan for “cup” and use it for “large boat”?

    Because a cup is a kind of boat. https://nicholaspanes.com/books/british-porcelain-sauceboats-of-the-18th-century

    Boot is a Low German loan, and I bet so is båt whose vowel doesn’t make sense otherwise

    The northeastern English (Geordie) pronunciation of boat is pretty much the same as the Norwegian for båt. Therefore it all comes from Frisian. I may have mentioned before that Hamburgers speak German with a Yorkshire accent (therefore, etc).

  49. J.W. Brewer says:

    Alas there was probably never a day when it could be expected that the proverbial Every Schoolboy definitely knew who Mal Waldron was, such that we could decry the ignorance of these decadent latter times. Although to turn it around, I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like, as the man said, and one of the things I like more than the next ex-schoolboy is jazz, and while I am in the no doubt very select in percentage terms portion of the US population who can successfully answer the question “name at least one prominent Scandinavian jazz musician” w/o googling, I may not be able off the cuff to name two. (And while I could name the one from memory phonetically, as it were – albeit no doubt with a comical American accent – I did need googling to get the accurate orthography for the name of the eminent and alas now-deceased Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.)

  50. Those of us who are fans of the Patrick O’Brian novels will recall that Aubrey’s first permanent command, the Sophie, was only a brig and therefore not a ship at all.

  51. Trond Engen says:

    Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen

    I saw him live once, at the festival VossaJazz in 1998*. For some reason my wife and I and a couple of friends were in the very front row. He made these little strays into a few beats of old melodies. He must have noticed I was on to him, for when he did the first line of the swedish psalm Bred dina vida vingar, I smiled for having my hunch confirmed, and he winked at me.

    *) I thought it was a couple of years earlier, but the 1998 festival program looks very much like what I remember. Also in support of the year is that our son was born the following winter, and I haven’t been to a music festival ever since. I still use the T-shirt at times, but now I couldn’t find it to check the year.

  52. David Eddyshaw says:

    *skip-, amazingly, is also a loan: into Proto-Northwest-Germanic or thereabouts

    What about Gothic skip?

  53. David Marjanović says:

    Oh! So it could be into Proto-Germanic. Or it could be a loan from NW into E Germanic, as *krēk- “Greek” pretty much has to be on account of its correspondence of Gothic e to NW instead of .

    I’ve suspected it was borrowed from Frisian at the time the Norse learned to use the sail.

    Ah, that makes sense!

    And why would they borrow a rare-ish Greek loan for “cup” and use it for “large boat”?

    Consider vessel. Maybe the Romans arrived in roundish merchant ships and called them “cups”.

    Bjorvand & Lindeman derive skip from IE *sk’ey- “split, cut” and explain it semantically as a term for boats built with planks as opposed to those made from hollow trees. But that’s also a bit odd, now that I think of it.

    Yeah, because we’d need to assume a suffix *-b-

    skapa “make, create”.

    That could work semantics-wise. Schöpfen can mean “create” (though usually that’s (er)schaffen), but also “scoop”; Schöpfer is “creator” and “dipper”. But the kind of large vessel you might carry your laundry in is a Schaff, not a Schiff

    (“Dipper” can be disambiguated by adding “spoon” to form Schöpflöffel, but de.wiktionary doesn’t even know that.)

    I’m not aware of a cognate for skipa. Exploring the Kluge mess further, I find a verb schupfen in my dialect, which refers to slow, short-distance throwing, which I suppose might count as scooping in some way.

    I may have mentioned before that Hamburgers speak German with a Yorkshire accent

    I may have mentioned the colleague who spent some time in Yorkshire and says that when the locals didn’t want him to understand what they were saying, they spoke their dialect – which he understood perfectly well because he knows Low German.

  54. AJP Crown says:

    he understood Yorkshire dialect perfectly well because he knows Low German.

    Thank you for that, David. It’s the only confirmation I’ve ever had about this. I never met a Yorkshireman in Hamburg.

    Maybe the Romans arrived in roundish merchant ships and called them “cups”.

    The owl & the pussycat went to sea in a sieve.

  55. David Eddyshaw says:

    he understood Yorkshire dialect perfectly well because he knows Low German

    I don’t believe this, especially not “perfectly well.” Odd word here and there, maybe.

    It reminds me of the canard that Welsh speakers can understand Breton.

  56. SFReader says:

    I am sure Cornish speakers could, when they still existed.

  57. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t believe this

    Not that I really give a damn whether you believe it, but do you know Hamburg and or Plattdeutsch?

  58. I don’t believe this, especially not “perfectly well.” Odd word here and there, maybe.

    I don’t think the point is “If you know Low German you automatically understand Yorkshire dialect” but rather “If you know both English and Low German you can understand Yorkshire dialect.”

  59. The mathematical definition: ships have an L-trimino at both ends and hence have D2 symmetry, while boats only at one end and hence have D1 symmetry.

    A vessel with neither is a barge, or in the case of the degenerate undirected version with D4 symmetry, tub.

  60. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t think the point is “If you know Low German you automatically understand Yorkshire dialect” but rather “If you know both English and Low German you can understand Yorkshire dialect.”

    Yes.

  61. What’s the difference is between a flying boat and a seaplane? I think only a flying boat has its hull in the water.

    Yes, exactly; a seaplane looks like a normal plane to which someone has attached large floats. A flying boat has a boat-shaped fuselage/hull that sits in the water.

    The main imperial vessels are “star destroyers,” but Han Solo refers to one as a “cruiser.”

    It’s only recently that “cruiser” has become the name of a type of warship, rather than the name of a mission you might give a warship. 200 years ago, a cruiser was simply a warship of any kind that had been given a cruising mission: that is, sailing around on its own, some distance away from the rest of the fleet. When Jack Aubrey or Horatio Hornblower are told “take your frigate, go and sail around off the French coast between these points and look for trouble; sink or take any French merchant ships you see, gather intelligence, that kind of thing”, they are being told that their ships are to become cruisers.

    When the switch to steam power happened, you needed to design ships specifically for the cruising role – in particular, they needed a lot of range and therefore a lot of bunker space, more than a fleet battleship or fleet destroyer. So you start getting ships actually desiged as cruisers.

  62. David Eddyshaw says:

    Not that I really give a damn whether you believe it

    You’re absolutely right. I should keep my ill-informed opinions to myself.

  63. David Eddyshaw says:

    @SFReader:

    I am sure Cornish speakers could [understand Breton], when they still existed.

    I’ve seen that suggested, too, though unfortunately I can’t recall where. It would make sense, anyhow.

  64. Coracles are cup-like.

  65. Rodger C says:

    I am sure Cornish speakers could [understand Breton], when they still existed.

    It’s said that fishermen used to exchange news of their countries in the middle of the Channel, but maybe that’s one of those tales.

  66. J.W. Brewer says:

    Keep your ill-informed opinions to yourself? Sir, if too many people got in the habit of that sort of extremist course of action, the internet as we know it would collapse!

  67. David Marjanović says:

    Yes.

    I’m sure. Still, Low German is a lot more similar to any kind of English than any kind of High German is – there’s quite a bit of shared vocabulary; it’s not all about the High German consonant shift.

  68. John Cowan says:

    (conciliatingly) Well, perhaps the Welsh could understand the Bretons on the subject of ognon at least.

    Boats, fishing, and bawdy.

  69. slow boat to China

  70. AJP Crown says:

    David: Low German is a lot more similar to any kind of English than any kind of High German is – there’s quite a bit of shared vocabulary; it’s not all about the High German consonant shift.

    As well as the shared vocabulary Low German sounds at times very similar to the speech in East Anglia & Yorkshire (which aren’t especially alike).

  71. AJP Crown says:

    I should keep my ill-informed opinions to myself.

    I can’t agree.

  72. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm 12 may in Schwaben they have schupfnudeln, mostly but not exclusively mit kraut und speck

  73. David Marjanović says:

    Yes – they’re fried in a pan, and turned by tossing them upwards a bit. Like the dramatic way to make pancakes, only… much less dramatic.

    They’re awesome, especially without the cabbage.

  74. SFReader says:

    Low German sounds at times very similar to the speech in East Anglia & Yorkshire

    Danish always sounded to me as some particularly unintelligible northern English dialect.

Speak Your Mind

*