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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old March 25 2011, 11:51 AM   #1
bfollowell
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What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

I've been a Trek fan for over thirty-five years now and something just occurred to me. What the heck does the U.S.S. prefix on Federation starships stand for? United Star Ship seems sort of odd and doesn't really seem to mean anything. I know today it's a prefix for U.S. ships meaning, of all things, United States Ship. That wouldn't make a whole lot of sense even if the ships were from a united Earth fleet but since they represent a multi-cultural/planetary federation, it would make even less sense. I know there are other things this prefix could mean even today, more in the future, but since we use it today to refer to U.S. ships, I can't think of much else it could stand for.

I'm sure I've heard or read somewhere over the years, what the prefix now stands for and forgotten. Will someone jog my memory?

Thanks.

- Byron
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Old March 25 2011, 12:18 PM   #2
Deranged Nasat
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

I've always assumed it's "United Starfleet Ship", as in "ship of the United Starfleet".

This could refer first to the United Earth space forces and then the United Federation of Planets forces.
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Old March 25 2011, 12:47 PM   #3
bfollowell
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Now that makes sense and I believe I've heard it somewhere before. I knew it had to have been addressed somewhere at sometime but I just couldn't think of what it stood for.

Unless I hear differently, I'll assume that's what it is.

Thanks.

- Byron
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Old March 25 2011, 12:49 PM   #4
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

United Space Ship seems to be the intention.

http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/USS
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Old March 25 2011, 01:02 PM   #5
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Each of the three letters could expand to a longer word than our heroes use in their verbal shorthand. Say, U = UFP, S = Starfleet, S = Starship. That'd be a complete and logical expansion; mere "United Starfleet Starship" leaves it a bit short IMHO. Although it does nicely suggest that the UFP Starfleet might be the result of the unification of several other starfleets from the member cultures.

"United Space Ship" makes no sense as such - what would disunited space be? Similarly, "United Starship" is a weird concept because disunited starships are probably in a distinct minority (the Galaxy class perhaps notwithstanding).

However, "United Federation of Planets Starfleet Starship" is a mouthful, so it would be no wonder if our heroes tended to abbreviate it to "United Starship" in most cases. And since not all spaceships in TOS are starships, perhaps the last word is Starship or Spaceship depending a bit on the vessel, and people often favor the more generic latter version in the 2260s?

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Old March 25 2011, 01:49 PM   #6
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

^ I like this explanation.
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Old March 25 2011, 03:03 PM   #7
Hartzilla2007
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Doesn't McCoy say what it stands for in Space Seed?

I think it was United Starship or United Spaceship.
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Old March 25 2011, 03:06 PM   #8
Jim Gamma
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

I've heard both United Star Ship and United Space Ship on TOS.
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Old March 25 2011, 03:21 PM   #9
C.E. Evans
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Jim Gamma wrote: View Post
I've heard both United Star Ship and United Space Ship on TOS.
This.

The only official definitions given onscreen.
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Old March 25 2011, 03:24 PM   #10
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Jim Gamma wrote: View Post
I've heard both United Star Ship and United Space Ship on TOS.
Starship is used mostly for ships that can go faster then light. (Reach other stars.)
Spaceship is normally used for ships that can't go FTL. (Stay in local space.)

So the above still would go.
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Old March 25 2011, 03:50 PM   #11
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Timo wrote: View Post
Each of the three letters could expand to a longer word than our heroes use in their verbal shorthand. Say, U = UFP, S = Starfleet, S = Starship. That'd be a complete and logical expansion; mere "United Starfleet Starship" leaves it a bit short IMHO. Although it does nicely suggest that the UFP Starfleet might be the result of the unification of several other starfleets from the member cultures.

"United Space Ship" makes no sense as such - what would disunited space be? Similarly, "United Starship" is a weird concept because disunited starships are probably in a distinct minority (the Galaxy class perhaps notwithstanding).

However, "United Federation of Planets Starfleet Starship" is a mouthful, so it would be no wonder if our heroes tended to abbreviate it to "United Starship" in most cases. And since not all spaceships in TOS are starships, perhaps the last word is Starship or Spaceship depending a bit on the vessel, and people often favor the more generic latter version in the 2260s?

Timo Saloniemi
I agree with Rosalind. Very neat.
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Old March 25 2011, 03:55 PM   #12
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Hartzilla2007 wrote: View Post
Doesn't McCoy say what it stands for in Space Seed?

I think it was United Starship or United Spaceship.
Squire of Gothos & Court Martial for Star Ship.

The Cage, The Menagerie part one, Space Seed, The Gamesters of Triskelion, Patterns of Force and apparently others for Space Ship. Space Ship is also what is given in Roddenberry's original pitch for the series to NBC.
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Old March 25 2011, 04:37 PM   #13
F. King Daniel
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

The Enterprise relaunch is trying it's hardest to marry ENT up with the old Star Trek Chonology and Encyclopedia books' take on Trek's 22nd century (despite the ENT series itself having intentionally taken a different path from the get-go). Therefore the "USS" means whatever it does in those books - "United Space Ship" or "United Star Ship"
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Old March 25 2011, 04:45 PM   #14
Mysterion
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Best explanation I've seen was "United Systems Ship". IIRC, it was in one of Diane Duanes novels.
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Old March 25 2011, 05:11 PM   #15
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Re: What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Clawhammer wrote: View Post
Starship is used mostly for ships that can go faster then light. (Reach other stars.)
Spaceship is normally used for ships that can't go FTL. (Stay in local space.)
Not necessarily. Remember "Bread and Circuses?"

CLAUDIUS: You're a clever liar, Captain Kirk. Merikus was a spaceship captain. I've observed him thoroughly. Your species has no such strength.
MERIK: He commands not just a spaceship, Proconsul, but a starship. A very special vessel and crew. I tried for such a command.
http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/43.htm

If Merik had only commanded a sublight vessel, he never would've gotten to Space Rome.

Also, Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd were both referred to as using spaceships, and while their ships were small, they were definitely capable of interstellar flight. "Spaceship" was also used to refer to the Enterprise on numerous occasions, to the Kelvans' intergalactic ship, to the Eymorgs' ion-drive ship, to the Bounty/Bird of Prey in The Voyage Home, etc.

The way I've always perceived the Trek usage is that "spaceship" is the general label for all spacegoing craft, including those with warp drive, while "starship" is used analogously to "capital ship" today, a special class of spaceship that's larger and more powerful than most.
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