What does U.S.S. stand for in the 22nd century and beyond?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by bfollowell, Mar 25, 2011.

  1. bfollowell

    bfollowell Captain Captain

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    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
     
  2. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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.
     
  3. bfollowell

    bfollowell Captain Captain

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    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
     
  4. zarkon

    zarkon Captain Captain

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  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    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
     
  6. Rosalind

    Rosalind TrekLit's Dr Rose Mod Admiral

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    ^ I like this explanation. :bolian:
     
  7. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    I think it was United Starship or United Spaceship.
     
  8. Jim Gamma

    Jim Gamma This space left blank intentionally. Premium Member

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    I've heard both United Star Ship and United Space Ship on TOS.
     
  9. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    This.

    The only official definitions given onscreen.
     
  10. Clawhammer

    Clawhammer Commander Red Shirt

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    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.
     
  11. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I agree with Rosalind. Very neat. :bolian:
     
  12. zarkon

    zarkon Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  13. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    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"
     
  14. Mysterion

    Mysterion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Best explanation I've seen was "United Systems Ship". IIRC, it was in one of Diane Duanes novels.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Not necessarily. Remember "Bread and Circuses?"

    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.
     
  16. zarkon

    zarkon Captain Captain

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    I like that seperation. From memory I think one of the errand series books has a line from a klingon pov, talking about the enterprise & constitution class ships, something like "the federation only had twelve such ships, twelve starships", which I rather liked(I probably butchered the line though).
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Well, Diane Carey's Final Frontier took it to the extreme that the Enterprise was the first spaceship ever to be called a starship, which of course has been disproven by ENT. It's kind of a literalistic interpretation of the E's dedication plaque, which called it "Starship Class."
     
  18. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

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    I've always taken it to mean United Federation of Planets Star/Space Ship, often shortened to United Star Ship.
     
  19. Robert D. Robot

    Robert D. Robot Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    On an only slightly related subject, I got a laugh when I heard that the NTE in the registry number of Galaxy Quest's Protector- NTE-3120- stands for "Not The Enterprise". :lol:
     
  20. elaithin

    elaithin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'd never heard that before. That's awesome.