News, Science

Is “Boaty McBoatface” A Good Name For A Research Vessel?

Concept art that captures what the new boat may look like. Image: WP:NFCC#4
Concept art that captures what the new boat may look like. Image: WP:NFCC#4

Recently, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in the UK launched a new, high-tech research ship. The $370-million ship has an important job. It explores the Arctic and conducts scientific experiments to learn more about the environment.

But the new ship didn’t have a name.

The NERC came up with a great idea that would help them decide on a new name, and get the public involved and interested in the ship’s research. They decided to let the public help to choose the ship’s name.

So they asked the public to suggest possible names, and vote for the one they liked best. The name that got the most votes could be selected.

Fortunately, they also decided that the final decision would rest in the hands of the NERC. In other words, if they didn’t like the public’s decision, they could decide not to use it.

That may have been a very smart decision. Because what name did the public choose?

Boaty McBoatface.

That name, when it was suggested, quickly became very popular. People thought it was funny, and they told other people about it—and eventually it went “viral.” (In this case, “viral” means that it spread broadly across the Internet, with many people sharing the information.)

In fact, Boaty McBoatface received more than 124,000 votes.

The problem is, while Boaty McBoatface might be a good name as a joke, it doesn’t really reflect the ship’s very important and serious scientific mission.

However, given how popular the name is, and how many people did become interested in, and aware of, the ship because of the incident, the NERC has a big decision to make. Stick with the popular choice–or choose a more dignified name that better reflects the ship’s serious mission.

Voting for the contest is now closed and the NERC’s website says they will make a final decision “in due course.”

Related links:
According to The Guardian‘s website, here are the five names that received the most votes:

  1. RRS Boaty McBoatface – 124,109
  2. RRS Poppy-Mai – 34,371
  3. RRS Henry Worsley – 15,231
  4. RRS It’s bl**dy cold here – 10,679 (We’ve added the asterisks. -Ed.)
  5. RRS David Attenborough – 10,284

By Kathleen Tilly and Joyce Grant

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Humour is a very “subjective” thing. “Subjective” means that what may seem funny to one person may not seem funny to another. Do you think the name Boaty McBoatface is funny? Why or why not?

Reading Prompt:
The title of the article asks the following question: “Is ‘Boaty McBoatface’ A Good Name For A Research Vessel?” After reading the article, what is your answer to the question?

If you don’t think it is an appropriate name, think of 2-3 other names that could be used for the research vesselt?

Language Feature: Phrases 
The list line says that the NERC will make a decision “in due course.”

“In due course” is a phrase that describes when the NERC will make a decision. But it’s a very unspecific phrase–it doesn’t really tell you when the decision will happen. What are other phrases you could use to tell someone when something will happen?