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Don’t Use The Word “Battleship”

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Republic of Korea's King Sejong the Great

Republic of Korea's King Sejong the Great

The battleship is dead!

No navy has built a new one since the close of World War II, well over 60 years ago. The concept of an all-gun surface warship is basically a relic from a time past. Imagine if the term “carriage” was used in a car review for something modern like a Lamborghini Gallardo. It would be out of place, and makes the writer sound less intelligent than they may be.

For example in this recent article by Paul Alexander of the API, he uses the word ‘battleship’:

…Japan has deployed battleships and Patriot missile interceptors off its northern coast to shoot down any rocket debris that the North has said might fall over the area…

Sure you could argue this is just petty semantics but unfortunately makes the writer look ill-informed about the basics of contemporary naval military technology. I’m sure that Paul is not a stupid fellow though- but it is a mistake that he is helping to perpetuate. Unfortunately for him what is normally a goof that only happens in conversation bit him with a published article on the web.

So What’s The Solution Then?

The correct terminology in this case is “surface warship”, but you can get away with “guided missile destroyer” as a blanket term for the blunt end of the stick of naval power. It’s a good approximation for the outdated term “battleship” even if you’re not entirely sure of what specific surface assets are involved.

Boats versus Ships

Furthermore, don’t call guided missile destroyers “boats”. There is a size difference implied. Boats are water craft that can be hauled aboard a ship. On a purely technical level you would call that a skiff- but for all practical purposes- Boats are small – play it safe and imagine something that can fit on a flatbed trailer- that’s a boat. Anything bigger than that? It’s a ship.

The only exception to this are submarines. Those are commonly called boats even if they are stupendously huge.

Written by Tijger Tsou

March 31st, 2009 at 6:00 pm

2 Responses to 'Don’t Use The Word “Battleship”'

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  1. This seems like a strange thing to get worked up over. Since you are attempting to be so correct you should note that it is correct to say/write PATRIOT not Patriot as that is a military acronym for the particular air defense system.


    28 May 09 at 2:23 pm

  2. Referring to the MIM-104 as either “Patriot” or “PATRIOT” nomenclature is acceptable. It’s similar to “Aegis” being acceptable for “AEGIS”. I think you’re reading into my exclamation points a bit too much.

    Tijger Tsou

    30 May 09 at 1:45 pm

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