I came upon the following in a book I'm reading: 

During the 1800s, a person got from one place to another one of four ways: by foot, animal (usually a horse), ship, or boat. By the second half of the century there was a fifth option—train.

The nautical people in my family would not have been surprised, as I was, to see "ship" and "boat" listed separately. Wikipedia starts its entry for Ship with "Not to be confused with boat. Which I do, a lot. And the nautical people in my life feel insulted, especially if they have boats of their own—or ships, or something else that usually floats and costs a lot of money.

Here's a summary of some of the differences between a boat and a ship. It's not so much that I don't know, as that I don't care—which is probably still more offensive to those of the sailing persuasion.

On the other hand, I suppose that in the 19th century, along America's eastern shoreline, the difference between "boat" and "ship" was as significant as that between "pistol" and "rifle," or maybe "rifle" and "cannon." And I have at least one friend who would no doubt be similarly insulted if I called his 1899 Swedish Mauser a "gun."

Still, I was surprised enough to go back and reread the sentence, convinced I'd read it wrong.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 11:06 am | Edit
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