Saturday, June 28, 2014

By sea and by air

Long forgotten by recent generations, including mine, taking a plane to travel long distance was a distant third preference to zeppelins and, mainly, ships.  In commercial language, at the beginning, air transportation was an “extreme” alternative to the comfortable and proven world of ships.  This genealogy has had a strong impact on the vocabulary of planes in English to this day.

A group of planes is called a fleet while the chief pilot is an aircraft is a captain.  The plane itself is divided into various cabins, located aft and stern, not to mention the kitchen galley, where the food is warmed up (prepared would be too kind of a word).These calories are served by stewardesses, the female version of the ship stewards, to add some sex appeal.  The outside of the airplane is a hull. In the airport, like for a ship, are docking spaces.

To be fair, passengers board and exit the plane, not embark and disembark. While a ship is a she, a plane is an it, even for the crew, to the best of my knowledge.  The amount of leg room in an economy seat and ship lounge chair cannot be compared while the space of even the smallest sleeping cabin on a ship involves a pretty penny for a flight.

In retrospect, aside from speed and time issues, travel by ship still seems a more pleasant experience, even taking into account the seasickness problem. If most of us cannot afford in terms of time and/or money the journey by sea, we can at least linguistically experience it by flying.

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