Bismarck proper name "He" or "She"

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SteveCampbell
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Bismarck proper name "He" or "She"

Post by SteveCampbell » Fri Nov 12, 2004 5:16 pm

I heard along the way that the Bismarck should be referred to as "HE", eventhough we refer to all other ships as "She". Is this "politically correct"? It sounds awkward and I instinctly refer to the Bismarck as "she" and "her".
Steve

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Patrick McWilliams
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Bismarck proper name "He" or "She"

Post by Patrick McWilliams » Fri Nov 12, 2004 5:58 pm

Hi Steve,

The question of "he" "she" probably arises from a personal recollection of Bismarck's most famous survivor, von Müllenheim-Rechberg, who said that Captain Lindemann asked that the ship should be referred to as "he", in view of its awesome power.

It's conventional, however, for seamen to use the feminine pronoun. I think it's a term of endearment.

Patrick

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pdfox99
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I concur

Post by pdfox99 » Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:12 am

I remember a documentary where the Captain addressed the crew to refer to the Bismarck as "He" in light of its awesome power.

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Re: I concur

Post by Tiornu » Sat Nov 13, 2004 2:36 am

The skipper certainly has the position to lead his men in a pep rally, but of course he has no standing as a guide to usage.
His exact words were, "So powerful a ship as this could only be a he, not a she." (Well, "exact" is relative--I don't think he was speaking English!) This of course was simply a way to instill confidence and elan in his crew, and I suspect it worked quite well. However, if we are indeed going to accept this as a guide to usage, then we will also have to use the masculine in reference to all such powerful ships.

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Post by K Lauer » Sat Dec 04, 2004 2:47 pm

Long time ago the same question was posted in this forum. I remember that someone answer it saying that the Germans use “she” or “he” to refer to ships different than the English speaking countries (where just “she” is used). I think this person says that if a ship in named after a city or Queen it will be refer as “she,” but if the ship is named after a country, King, state or something like that it will be refer as “he.”
So Lindemann did not want to be a “macho man” (as someone also suggested in the same time of the first post about this matter that I read), for trying to change the SHE for the HE, or change any language rule. The thing is that with that name “BISMARCK” the ship was somehow free to be called SHE OR HE. The captain decided that his ship would be a HE.
That is what I remember about that, however I am no sure.

Best regards,

K Lauer

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Post by José M. Rico » Sat Dec 04, 2004 6:28 pm

A curious note. Although in German and English languages ships are usually referred to in their feminine form, in Spanish it is not always that way. For us the battleship Bismarck is always a "he" = "el" Bismarck, never "la" Bismarck, and it doesn't have anything to do with the name of the ship but with the type of ship. Had the Bismarck been a frigate instead of a battleship and it would be "la" Bismarck. That is because frigate ("fragata") is feminine in Spanish, and battleship ("acorazado") is masculine.

The battleship Bismarck = El acorazado Bismarck.
The frigate Bismarck = La fragata Bismarck.

Therefore for the Spanish people reading the translated version of von Müllenheim-Rechberg's book (or any other text in Spanish) there is nothing wrong in using the masculine form when referring to this ship because for us the battleship Bismarck is indeed a "he".

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Bismarck reference "he" / "she"

Post by SteveCampbell » Sat Dec 04, 2004 7:20 pm

Thanks for the input. Can anyone respond who can translate/read the German accounts, is the pronoun describing Bismarck, "he" or "she" in the German language?

Steve

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Post by tommy303 » Mon Dec 06, 2004 6:27 pm

In German practice, the name of the ship is most usually preceeded by its class or type:

Das Schlachtschiff Bismarck
Der Kreuzer Admiral Hipper
Der Zerstoerer Karl Gallester
Das Unterseeboot 123
Das Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee

Kreuzer and Zerstoerer are masculine, Boot, and Schiff are neuter in gender, and this would be carried over on occassions where the ship type was left off, thus Das Bismarck, der Admiral Hipper, etc. Informally the crews would tend to assign the traditional feminine pronoun, referring to the ship as sie or she. It was probably a matter of this that Lindemann was addressing, not changing the formal ship title to Der Schlachtschiff Bismarck, which grammatically he could not do anyway.

thomas

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They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
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And saved the sum of things for pay.

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Post by ufo » Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:15 pm

It seems to be a catching topic – it comes up ever now and then.

And every time thanks to Müllenheim-Rechenberg the might and majesty of Bismarck is mentioned.

Though now, thanks to Josés great web page, we all have to possibility to read through some war diaries. One registers that whenever Bismarck is mentioned in Prinz Eugens diary it is most often without a pronoun (e.g. “… Bismarck did this or that …” rather than “der or die Bismarck did …”). This sounds rather stiff in German but is widely used in the documents presented. In cases though where a sub sentence refers back to it, the ship is addressed in the masculine form.

So it seems not so much something that was a common practise just among Bismarcks crew but more wide spread. Even the commander of a heavy cruiser writes his war diary in accordance with that practice.

Funny enough: Prinz Eugen herself (oh – sorry!) himself (!) is addressed in his :wink: own war diary in a masculine form. The pactice is exactly the same like for Bismarck. Most often the ship is mentioned without a pronoun but when it is refered to, it is in the masculine form (e.g. page 24 “…Prinz Eugen hält Kurs und Fahrt durch, solange bis er abgedrängt wird …”).

So Prinz Eugen was also a ‘he’ after all!

The practice to refer to the ship without a pronoun seemingly has been standard practise within the Kriegsmarine. In the Ktb of Blücher it also is always addressed as Blücher never die Blücher.
I do not know enough passages of Blüchers war diary to have found a sentence that would reveal if it was der Blücher in fact but one may suspect so.

It is still a very interesting topic but it seems to me much less linked to Bismarck and her (sorry – his :wink: ) history than more an interesting practice within the Kriegsmarine to address heavy units in a masculine form.

Are there more war diaries of heavy German units out there? I would love to see how other units did adress themselves!

To the document diggers: How did they do in the Hochseeflotte?

Ufo

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Thu Dec 09, 2004 2:09 am

I think this "his" and "her" thing about German warships is a trivial thing and rather absurd. Lindemann may have had a point, perhaps. In German a ship can be addressed by the gender of the name it bears as in der (he)Kaiser or der Kronprinz or die (she) Kaiserin or die Nymphe. It also depends of whether you put in front of the ship's name der (he) Kreuzer/ Zerstörer or das (it) Schlachschiff or die (she) Yacht. Der Bismarck (he) seems a little odd to me; if the ship would have been named Prinz or Otto von B. then "he" would not be a problem to me. There are several legitimate choices in German that the English language has been able to streamline nicely. I would always refer to the Prinz Eugen is a "he" and never in the feminine gender, since both cruiser and the name are masculine genders. As I said, nothing to get bent out of shape about. German genders of nouns and names are irrational and even the natives struggle to get it right. I prefer die Bismarck (she) and der Prinz Eugen (he). Don't ask me why.
Ulrich

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Post by foeth » Wed Dec 22, 2004 9:51 am

German genders of nouns and names are irrational and even the natives struggle to get it right
That's good to hear, as a foreigner I won't have to worry too much about my grammar (As a German collegue noted: the Dutch accent is far worse than the grammar).

Anyway, the He/She discussion is one of the nice topics for the kiddies who seem to get lost in every irrelevant detail because of yet another Discovery channel "factoid", told as if it were something useful. One of the few books actually managing to give a good overview of the action remains (for me), Graham Rhys-Jones' "The Loss of the Bismarck : An Avoidable Disaster".

note: haven't read the webmasters book, because of its format.

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Thu Dec 23, 2004 3:09 pm

This problem has been observed by Mark Twain in "A Tramp Abroad". See Appendix D (essay on The Awful German Language). I think there is also a similar essay on American vs. English. :lol:
http://www.mtwain.com/A_Tramp_Abroad/.html/Appendix+D
Ulrich

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Post by foeth » Thu Dec 23, 2004 4:48 pm

You have to know your German before you can even begin to appreciate that appendix! Dutch and German (Deutch pure, Diets when mixed) are related, so it's not too difficult to understand. Same grammar horrors, though no Die/Der/Den/Des etc, other peculiarities. "ei" and "ij" are pronounced the same, as are "ou" and "au", but "ei", "eu" and "ui" are not but so close in pronunciation that nobody will notice. Hardly a suprise that an errorless national spelling contest (8 sentences) is considered an inhuman score!

A classical German term:

Haushaltkochküchengerät mit selbstanstauendedrückanlage

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Post by Javier L. » Fri Dec 24, 2004 12:23 am

This is from "Battleship Bismarck, a Survivor's Story" by Müllenheim-Rechberg; page 29 (2001 edition published by Birlinn Limited):
  • "After a short pause, Lindemann added: "One more thing. In the future, I would prefer to hear people on board use the masculine form when speaking of the Bismarck. So powerful a ship as this could only be a he, not a she." I resolved to accede to his wish and, although I have had a few slips of tongue, have done so ever since.*

    * Out of respect for the one and only commanding officer of the Bismarck, this rule has also been followed in the German edition of this book."

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Post by bbisforbattleboat » Thu Jan 06, 2005 4:38 am

Howdy folks. I participated more often in the other forum than in this one, but now that there is a good software program going I will probably be in here more.

This whole business of the he versus she relating to Bismarck was discussed about 2 years ago in the other forum until John A. locked the thread.

I will go along with Captain L. in this matter. I say that both Bismarck and Tirpitz were he's. Captain Topp, I understand, believed his ship (Tirpitz) was a she. Nobody should be offended if these ships are referred to as "she." Who in their right mind and genuinely intelligent would be? Figure that question out. Political correctness has been almost like a poison and something of an infringement on the right of freedom of speech.

How the ships are referred to in different languages makes a very interesting conversation, however.

Maybe the he/she thing is like :stubborn: banging your head against a wall? :lol:

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