Update 5-9-2016: In a decision that should surprise nobody, the National Environment Research Council has decided not to use the internet’s suggestion. In a statement released Friday, May 6, the organization announced that the new research vessel will be named after renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. The NERC did recognize the popularity of “Boaty McBoatface,” which topped the poll with 124,000 votes, and will use the name for one of the ship’s remote controlled submersibles.
In 2014, the National Environment Research Council (NERC), a British government agency that conducts research into the environmental sciences, announced the construction of a £200 million (about $288 million) polar research ship. The ship, which will have on-board laboratories and a range of 19,000 nautical miles, is expected to set sail in 2019 — but before that, it needs a name. In an act of naïvete, the NERC asked people on the Internet to vote on a name for the ship.
As the NERC site explains, “We would like the name to be inspirational and about environmental and polar science, to help us tell everyone about the amazing work the ship does…The ship could be named after a local historical figure, movement, or landmark – or a famous polar explorer or scientist.” Voters, not content to settle for something as jejune as a famed explorer or scientist, have rallied behind a more iconoclastic name: the RRS (Royal Research Ship) Boaty McBoatface.
Mc-Boat-Face: the tongue drunkenly stumbling three steps to fall off the teeth. With over 18,000 votes and counting, the name has taken a decisive lead over more conventional names like RRS David Attenborough, as well as other experimental choices like “Big Metal Floaty Thingy-thing.”
The name has proven so popular that the Web page for voting has experienced frequent crashing due to traffic, as users flock to christen one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world. Though it may seem perplexing to some, the name Boaty McBoatface continues a long history of dry British humor, befitting the nation of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.
Boaty, an adjective presumably meaning “of or like a boat,” instantly lets one know that the vessel is, in fact, a boat. “Boatface” conjures the absurd image of an anthropomorphic boat; a hysterical thought because boats, as everyone knows, do not actually have faces. As for the use of Mc- in the surname: a possible comment on Scottish Independence, perhaps? It’s hard to say; like all great satire, Boaty McBoatface remains open to interpretation.
The poll to name the 125m ship ends April 16. Those who have misgivings about the current frontrunner can take solace in the fact that NERC may have anticipated this outcome. The posting states that “The final name will be selected by NERC,” giving the organization an out if democracy somehow fails.