Pinafore, as in HMS

It occurred to me (not for the first time—is there a word for a notion that comes to a person and is forgotten and then not so much remembered as discovered again?) that the name of the titular ship in the operetta H.M.S. Pinafore is a joke that has faded in time, as fewer and fewer people know what a pinafore is or have any associations with the word other than the Gilbert and Sullivan show. Most of the ‘modern’ adaptations that I know of keep the name Pinafore (and are themselves decades old). I wonder what an equivalent joke-name for a ship would be now. The HMS Romper? The HMS Blouse?

Part of it, of course, is that in 1878, the association of women and the military was inherently risible. Not so much in 2022. But another part is that pinafores were associated with children, and with childish play—it’s not just the HMS Frilly Apron, but the HMS Frilly Apron for Six-Year-Olds. You know going in to the show that the brave sailors of the HMS Pinafore are not likely to be fierce warriors whatever their gender (if any). Which is picked up in the joke about their excessive politeness, and how the Captain never swears… HMS Kids Table? HMS Easy Bake? HMS Unicorn Glitter?

What do y’all think?


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