On the good ship Boaty McBoatface

The British are famous for their dry sense of humor, but not long ago they took it out for exercise and got it wet.

What am I talking about? The Natural Environment Research Council will be launching a new polar research vessel, which they say “will be the UK’s largest and most advanced research ship yet. She will allow scientists to carry out research safely and efficiently, even through the harshest of winters, in both Antarctica and the Arctic.

So far, so unfunny. But in an effort to create the illusion of public involvement, some genius launched a Name Our Ship campaign.

Irrelevant photo: Yes, the prevailing wind blows from the right. If, of course, you're facing the right way. Photo by Ida Swearingen.

Irrelevant photo: Yes, the prevailing wind blows from the right. If, of course, you’re facing the right way. Photo by Ida Swearingen.

Beware of media consultants bearing catchy ideas. The Research Council didn’t. Instead, they set up a web site, invited public involvement, and it all went wrong. So many people were voting that at one point the site crashed. You think that’s a success?

Nope. The top entry is Boaty McBoatface (ships’ names are italicized, in case anyone’s taking notes), and ol’ Boaty’s the reason so many people voted. Maybe the name caught something the spirit of the times or maybe there’s some more profound reason that I’m too shallow to spot.

After Boaty, you get a couple of serious names and you’ll forgive me if I skip those, right? Then we come to It’s Bloody Cold Here and Usain Boat. After that come Thanks for All the Fish (if you don’t catch the reference, you need to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; try to read around the ingrained sexism, because it’s funny in spite of the [I’d like to think] dated attitude) and What Iceberg?

Scroll down a bit and you come to my favorite, Big Metal Floaty Thingy-Thing, as well as Not the Titanic and Boat Marley and the Whalers.

Enough with trying to patch together interesting sentences. Others include:

Ship Happens

Boaty O’Boatface

Boatback Mountain

Fish ‘n’ Chips

Slippery When Wet

Do You Want Ice with That?

Science!!! (I like that one. I hear it in a high, manic, advertising voice.)

It Ain’t Half Cold Mum


Aunt Arctica

Float Like a Butterfly (for anyone who’s not old enough to remember, that’s a Muhammad Ali reference)

Big Ship Innit (in case you’re not British, innit translates to isn’t it) and

Bbrrrrrrr (with, yes, two B’s)

At this point, I was reading names that had thirty or so votes and I lost the will to scroll any further. By way of comparison, Boaty McBoatface had 76,470 votes. The next most popular ones were serious, and they had around 7,000 and 5,000. It’s Bloody Cold Here also had some 5,000 and no apostrophe. I added one. I had to. I trust someone will add it officially if the entry wins. Unless either maritime safety or the law of the sea forbids apostrophes.

After Boaty crashed the website, the Natural Environment Research Council announced that the vote is only advisory and they’ll make the final decision themselves, thank you very much. But you kind of knew that, didn’t you?

So there you have the British sense of humor. You thought I meant the names, right? I don’t. I’m talking about public consultation. Bureaucrats just love consulting the public.So much so that when I had to decide what category to file this under, Traditions won out. What could be more traditional than involving and then ignoring the public?


88 thoughts on “On the good ship Boaty McBoatface

  1. I really wanted the ship to be called Boaty Mc Boatface!

    just for the fact that serious scientists would have to stand in serious meetings and say serious science things and then include the words Boaty McBoatface :-D

    I now also want it to be called Thanks for all the Fish…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Boaty McBoatface has made (forgive my reference), people most ignorant of environmental issues… smile. They got on the bandwagon and just for a laugh perpetuated the ludicrous vote. Never mind that it isn’t a boat… if a ship can hold it; it is a boat. Although it wouldn’t have been my choice, it did spin it out get it noticed and had people discussing (I heard some myself ) what tasks this beast would undertake. People that you couldn’t get to sort their rubbish were saving the world with their ludicrous vote. Now does it really sound sensible to ignore the consequences the knock on effect of the vote???
    Love this post and thank you for allowing me to hijack Boaty McBoatface.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I kinda like Boaty McBoatface (sorry, I can’t italicize in the comments without knowing HTML tags). The name might help encourage young children to take an interest in science. OK, that was a lame attempt, but it might show that you guys actually have a sense of humor.

    Here in Hartford, CT, we had a similar contest to name our new minor league baseball team. We didn’t think to make the contest advisory (before or after the fact) so The Hartford Yard Goats begin playing baseball in a few weeks. Maybe they could name the mascot Batty McBatface.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I knew about Boaty McBoatface but didn’t read the list. I have been rolling around the floor laughing my head off. This is why I prefer reading local newspapers online these days – the comments are so more interesting than the news. National Rail at Waterloo also joined in with the fun by displaying and announcing the next train in as Trainy McTrainface! A new cafe opening up the road from me is also considering Cafe McCafeface!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. A giant April Fools Day story. I’d laugh if I had not been stung so hard by the foolery of it all. ;) Not that it matters (sorry wetting down my own dry humor), but I’m partial to “Searching For Sun”. P.S. please forgive the lack of italicized lettering. :) G-uno

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I don’t know. Is Boaty McBoatface supposed to be funny? The fact that it’s the leader of the contest may be a very powerful argument that the British don’t have a sense of humor at all.

    I’m just joking, put away the pitchforks. ;) My vote would be for Fish N Chips, only because I didn’t have any breakfast this morning and I’m starving, but I’m also liking What Iceberg? because dark humor is the best kind.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I don’t think Boaty‘s the funniest of the suggestions, but I’m fascinated that it took off the way it did. Which probably testifies to the power of social media rather than its inherent funniness. And–sigh–there’s a lesson there, although I’m not sure what it is. Do more with social media, probably. Crap. I didn’t want to know that.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I love this. It’s all in the grand British tradition of extremely silly humour. The person who suggested the leading name is obviously very much in touch with their inner child – hooray for them, I say.

    Your favourite (and mine too) “Big Metal Floaty Thingy-Thing” is in the same delightfully childish vein. It’s reminiscent of Baldrick in the episode of Blackadder 3 where he’s put the manuscript of Dr Johnson’s dictionary (the only copy) on the fire:
    Blackadder: ” Right, let’s get the book. Now; Baldrick, where’s the manuscript?”
    Baldrick: ” You mean the big papery thing tied up with string?”
    Blackadder: “Yes, Baldrick — the manuscript belonging to Dr. Johnson.”
    Baldrick: “You mean the baity fellow in the black coat who just left?”
    Blackadder: “Yes, Baldrick — Dr. Johnson.”
    Baldrick: “So you’re asking where the big papery thing tied up with string belonging to the baity fellow in the black coat who just left is.”
    Blackadder: “Yes, Baldrick, I am, and if you don’t answer, then the booted bony thing with five toes at the end of my leg will soon connect sharply with the soft dangly collection of objects in your trousers. For the last time, Baldrick: Where is Dr. Johnson’s manuscript?”
    Baldrick: “On the fire.”
    Blackadder: (shocked) “On the what?”
    Baldrick: “The hot orangy thing under the stony mantlepiece.”

    Oh, and I guess the suggestion “It Ain’t Half Cold Mum” derives from the 1970’s BBC sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”, which was about the experiences of a Royal Artillery concert party in India and Burma at the end of World War 2.

    Liked by 4 people

      • No I didn’t memorise it – I’m too old for that sort of thing. Just searched the web, found the script and copied that bit of it. I do have the video of that episode of Blackadder though; it really is one of the funniest ones of the lot.

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Ha ha ha ha! What on earth did they expect when they opened it up for public consultation. I wonder if they even received one non-amusing suggestion. They are obviously going to undermine the consultation and name it something snoringly sensible that their own heads generated but oh how I wish they would go with the public vote.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. This reminds me of the recent online petition supporting open carry for any and all types of weaponry at the upcoming Republican convention. Democrats pounced on it and suggested the addition of firecrackers. Other reader comments on the Huffington website included ” This gives “Donald. Duck!” a whole new meaning” and “First candidate to get hit by 1,237 bullets will be the nominee. Pass the popcorn.” All the gleeful humor and clever comments came to a halt when the FBI said it wasn’t a good idea despite over 45,000 signatories. Darn!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Science!!! (I like that one. I hear it in a high, manic, advertising voice.)

    I now have the song Blinded me with Science stuck in my head. I believe there is a part in the song where he says the word science louder than the rest of the song.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Ah things are making sense- I follow a Great Britain site on Facebook and today they had a post on “the new clocktower to be built in London, twice the size of Big Ben” (or something of the sort-obviously April Fool’s). And someone commented “it would be named Clocky McClockface” which garnered all kinds of likes and accolades for the wit of it. Good thing I read your blog to help me sort these things out :)

    Liked by 3 people

    • And it’s a good thing I write it, because there’s always someone who’ll come forward and fill me in on the references I’m missing. When you move to another country as an adult, you never entirely catch up.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is really too good not to be an April Fool’s! Proving once again that truth is often stranger than fiction.

    My vote goes for *Insert Pun Here*, though RSS Feed had me rolling on the floor :D

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m picturing a plastic boat in a bathtub, too. Painted bright orange. I had missed the comments about the open carry at the GOP convention. As a member of the opposing party, I thought it a great idea as long as they locked the doors and let ’em all have at it. ;)

    Liked by 2 people

  14. This was fun reading. We have public consultation here too, that always meets the politicians ignorance. They think they’ve done with the public consultation thing when all the answers from public are done. They don’t think they actually have to listen to what people say, if they don’t agree with the politicians. It’s only when you agree with them you get their ear.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. When I’m desperate for a break, first thing I do is go offline. Just back from 3 days out of town out of internet. Thank goodness for your posts that are a sound reason to be online at all! I had a good laugh with your list, cringe to think of what the “serious” suggestions were :)

    Liked by 1 person

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  17. Big Metal Floaty Thingy-Thing gets my vote. Without a doubt. Because Thingy-Thing. “This is not just a Big Metal Floaty THING”, that name exclaims. Though it is LIKE that, it is a Thing LIKE THAT THING BUT NOT ACTUALLY THAT THING.

    I feel a sudden, desperate need to start working “thingy-thing” into conversation…

    Liked by 1 person

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