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Y is for yacht

Poll #1971311 Y is for Yacht

In an alphabet book aimed at toddlers, the following are all usually encountered


A yacht is...

a kind of sail boat
an expensive ship
regularly encountered by toddlers

I was paging through a Hello Kitty alphabet book, and Yacht stood out like a sore thumb for me. What was an expensive ship doing in a book which otherwise contained words like "apple" or "house"; not "f is for foie gras" and "c is for canapés"? I was with a group of local mothers at the time; they all found "Yacht" a perfectly normal. So presumably it's a British thing.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2014 04:41 pm (UTC)
Pictures of yachts were extremely common when I was a child. They featured in every seaside illustration, and there were lots of those. I was also taught to draw a yacht very early on: just after houses and people.

Disclaimer: we had a half share in a yacht, so this is probably partly my privilege talking.
Jun. 10th, 2014 04:49 pm (UTC)
I think yacht as in sail-boat, the sort of thing that's also called a dinghy, used to be a common children's toy. Lots of alphabet books also have things like drums and toy soldiers, which aren't really common objects in modern children's lives, but have become part of children's culture because they're archetypal toys.
Jun. 10th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
I think that yachts have some kind of accommodation whereas dinghies don't, and that's the difference between them. I think they're both boats rather than ships, and both for fun rather than work, but yachts are generally more expensive by about a factor of ten.
Jun. 10th, 2014 04:55 pm (UTC)
I think it's in alphabet books as one of the few nouns in English to begin with Y, and because they can draw it very simply as a small boat with sails.

Of course modern yachts are not sailboats, but I bet if you researched it you'd find use of 'yacht' goes back a good few decades - for example: http://www.alephbet.com/pages/books/36423/object-alphabet-book
Jun. 10th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC)
When I was a child, I understood 'yacht' to mean a small sailing boat, like the ones which feature in Swallows and Amazons (both the book and the film). Toddlers might see them on lakes or the sea, if they happened to live near to either / both. I only learnt much later that small sailing boats are actually often called 'dinghies'. As I child, I thought 'dinghy' exclusively meant a rubber inflatable boat.

All this aside, it occurs to me now that 'yacht' is a pretty crazy word to ask toddlers to cope with at all, even if they're only really focusing on the first letter, given the almost total mismatch between how it is spelt and how it is pronounced. I think if I were designing a toddlers' alphabet book myself, I'd probably go with 'yo-yo' instead. Or maybe 'yoghurt', since they actually eat those. I wouldn't recommend letting a toddler encounter a yo-yo at close range, come to think about it.
Jun. 10th, 2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
For me, a yacht is a large, luxurious boat, something that a rich person would own. But that may just be coastal-dwelling, Southern California-me speaking. R. loves about books about boats and trucks and vehicles, and in the American books, I don't see any yachts; there are sailboats (not motor-powered), speed boats, and military ships. We have one British book that has a yacht in it, but I've never encountered that word outside that one book. The Y's in A-B-C books are almost always yak or yellow.
Jun. 10th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC)
Yacht definitely has a dual meaning. In terms of kids books it's usually pictured with a sail and is what would otherwise be known as a sailing dingy of the sort which you could pick up pretty cheaply.

On the other hand, there's the luxury yacht floating gin palace that you swig gin in while parked in Monaco harbour that you would gulp at the price of even if you're a multi-millionaire.

Both of these things are called yachts but the pictures (in my book at least) were the former not the latter.
Jun. 10th, 2014 05:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, c0th above links to a perfect picture of a yacht of the first type and that's what I'd expect to see from a kid's book illustration of a yacht. I've never seen a yacht of the second type in a kid's book.
Jun. 10th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
I'm all for floating gin palaces.
Jun. 10th, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
Toy yachts were extremely common when I was a child. Most kids had one, and sailing it in a pond in the park pretty much obligatory. Not to mention smaller versions for the bath.
Jun. 10th, 2014 10:50 pm (UTC)
If you say "yacht" to me, I still think sailing-boat, as illustrated in many books of my childhood and floated in many a bath; when I see a boat sailing under the Golden Gate bridge, I still call it a yacht. I understand that the billionaire's-gin-palace-afloat thing is also called a yacht, but that has no place in my lexicon.

(Also, the word "yacht" has suddenly turned weird in my head and before my eyes, and after fifty-some years of knowing what it is and what it means and how to say it, something in me wants to pronounce it yatched. Damn you and your questioning ways, disturbing the harmony of my elder days!)
Jun. 11th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
I'm like this -- when Jeremy Deller depicted William Morris overturning Abramovich's yacht, I had visions of something with sails. I can't really cope with rich people's cruisers being called yachts.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 11th, 2014 10:31 am (UTC)
Re: Trains
Or a yak! And young English children probably won't know the word 'yarn', as 'wool' tends to be used for yarn whatever it's made out of, except among pedantic knitters.
Jun. 11th, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Trains
I think xylophone gets a pass here because really your choices are xylophone and x-ray and that's about it.
Jun. 11th, 2014 12:37 pm (UTC)
To be fair toddlers are more likely to encounter a yacht than a yak, and yellow yarn is a bit boring whereas a yacht can be part of a nice picture of the sea.
Jun. 11th, 2014 04:05 pm (UTC)
Toddlers all used to have yachts of their own, which you sailed on the boating lake/paddling pool at your local park. They're about twelve inches long, with a brightly coloured wooden hull and a cloth sail.

This sort of thing http://www.clockworkmouse.co.uk/en/toy-sailing-boats/58-skipper-12-inch-traditional-toy-pond-yacht-5060174390340.html but obviously made by your grandad who had learnt woodworking properly rather than being bought from an expensive retro toyshop.

These days there's probably a yacht-racing iPad app.

Edited at 2014-06-11 04:09 pm (UTC)
Jun. 11th, 2014 05:33 pm (UTC)
I have one in my back garden. A yacht, not a yak. It lives on a trailer, has one cabin with space for seats that turn into a bed and a sink, no toilet or galley. Kind of a camper van with sails, but people have taken that model across the Atlantic, so dammit, it's a yacht.

Edited to show photo in icon.

Edited at 2014-06-11 05:35 pm (UTC)
Jun. 11th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
As a Canadian, I think of the floating palace of the rich when I hear yacht. I don't ever recall encountering it in an alphabet book or as a toy when I was little....
Jun. 11th, 2014 08:51 pm (UTC)
For me, it's entirely contextual. I would expect the picture in a child's book to be of a sailboat. My dad belongs to a couple of yacht clubs (not because that's our background, but because he's a very good sailor and is also the kind of person born to organize yacht races and chair the race committee), and I used to live in a yacht harbor (on a sloop). BUT... if you were to say, "so-and-so has a yacht," I would assume you meant a large luxury motor cruiser (with several cabins).

On the other hand, if you were to say, "so-and-so has a boat," I'd assume that it was a sailboat of some sort.
Jun. 20th, 2014 12:31 am (UTC)
Well I would have said that a yacht is a sail boat (with some minimum set of features) and I have friends in yacht clubs etc.. But I recognize that loosely it is used to mean expensive boat, but an instance of a class can often be used to talk about an entire class even if only lazily or ironically (as one might call any car a jalopy in the right context).

Anyway it's probably spelt "Luxury Yacht" but pronounced "Throat Wobbler Mangrove".
Jul. 6th, 2014 08:22 pm (UTC)
A yacht for me in my growing up years as a child was any sailing vessel smaller than a ship. It depends on the context and in a kid's picture book it is sloppily called a yacht whilst actually it should be a dinghy.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )