Don't be lost for words...

Words have power

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If you doubt that, then consider the kerfuffle that's currently surrounding the choice of name for the Natural Environment Research Council's new multi-million pound polar research ship, currently dubbed 'NPRV' or New Polar Research Vessel.

To recap, some bright spark came up with the idea of letting the public vote for a name for the new vessel, under the slogan: "200 MILLION POUNDS. 15,000 TONNES. 129 METRES. ONE NAME." All of which I rather like. It's engaging, the copy on the NERC website is catchy, and the idea of involving everyone in an endeavour that affects us all is a sound one.

Unfortunately, the organisers didn't count on the public's sense of mischief, and when the closing date was reached....well you probably know the rest already. The overwhelming choice was not 'Arctic Fox' or 'Polar Star' or 'Benthic Explorer' but the now infamous Boaty McBoatface.

You can imagine the horror at the NERC as the results poured in and it slowly dawned on them that - in their eyes - the thing had backfired badly. You can see it on the website. The opening section has a light touch and a sense of fun. Scroll down to the results section and the colours are sombre, the tone of the text heavy and resigned. It's all gone a bit Pete Tong.

This is because words matter, they have power. And in this case, the organisers clearly feel that those words will undermine the seriousness of what the NERC is trying to do. Indeed, UK science minister Jo Johnson has said: "I think we were clear when launching the competition that we were looking for a name that would be in keeping with the mission."

They weren't, of course, and the name now has such legs that I suspect whatever they end up calling it officially, Boaty is here to stay.

Because words have power, you know...