In January 1973, after 11 years in operation, the AMC was getting a new and more modern national headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama. To boost morale, the AMC held a contest to name the new headquarters. People came up with all sorts of names for the new headquarters. When the deadline for suggestions was reached, the AMC had received more than 500 entries. The official contest committee to name the new building carefully studied each one. Some of the suggestions were comical. Some were too colorful or risqué to list here. Some were just downright strange.
Finally, on January 14, 1973, Major General Charles T. Horner, the AMC chief of staff announced that the lucky winner was Francis Sikorski. Along with the pride of winning the contest, Francis received a monetary award of $100. After announcing the winner, the major general proudly announced the winning entry. “The name of the new AMC building,” the major general said, “is…the AMC building.” The choice was met with disappointment.
More than 40 years later, officials in Britain had a similar situation in which the public was disappointed in a naming contest. In 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council held an online poll to name its new £287 million polar scientific research ship. The Natural Environment Research Council suggested dignified names such as Shackleton, Endeavour, and Falcon. Members of the public also made their own suggestions. Someone suggested naming the ship after the late David Bowie. BBC radio host James Hand put forth his suggestion, but he eventually cast his ballot for another suggestion to name the boat in honor of English broadcaster, biologist, natural historian and author Sir David Attenborough. Eventually, officials selected, not the entry which had the most votes, not the one with the second most votes, but the one which came in fourth place in the poll. Officials named the boat the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
People who had voted in the online poll were upset that National Environmental Research Council disregarded their choice in favor of one that came in fourth place. They asked why they held a poll at all. Science Minister Jo Johnson responded that there were “more suitable” names. The online pollsters rallied behind BBC radio host James Hand’s suggestion because it came in first place with more than 124,000 votes. Finally, to quell the row, the Council agreed to name a miniature yellow submarine onboard the ship as James Hand had suggested. If the council had adopted the name based on the “name our ship” poll, the RRS Sir David Attenborough would have been named Boaty McBoatface.
1. The Atchison Daily Globe, January 15, 1973, p.2.
2. Whitehorse Daily Star, March 21, 2016, p.13.
3. “‘Boaty McBoatface’ polar ship named after Attenborough,” BBC News, May 6, 2016, accessed March 10, 2023. www.bbc.com/news/uk-
4. Tampa Bay Times, October 18, 2016, p.T11.
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