The big cover story on the latest edition of Navy Times is about how the term "shipmate" has evolved into a derogatory term or an insult. There's a discussion board about it on the Navy Times website here.
I have to say I don't agree.
I have heard it used in equally as many positive as negative situations. The difference is really in the tone of voice one uses while saying it. For example, when you've been out at sea for a month, it's been a long day, and your up-coming port call was just canceled, and then your stateroom mate breaks out his secret stash of Diet Coke and Kit Kat and hands one of each to you. A likely response from me would be a huge grin from ear to ear followed by a warm and hearty, "Shipmaaaaaaate!" :-)
The comments on the Navy Times discussion board claimed that the term is always used from a senior to a junior immediately before an ass-chewing. I disagree with that, too. I have frequently heard it and used it amongst my peers. When I think of my second Weps from my Nav tour, the image that comes to my mind is his big smile and I hear his voice saying, "Shipmaaate!" in my head. It's sort of like those really annoying "whazzaaaaaaaap?" commercials - only not annoying. It's actually more like Rob Schneider playing the copy guy on SNL, "Steeeeeve! Steve-O-Rama! Steverunavich! The Stevemeister! Senor Steve!" I can just hear Rob Schneider the copy guy saying, "Shipmaaaaaaaate!"
Now, I will say that I've heard many a COB use the term immediately before offering some form of... not necessarily "ass chewing," but more "constructive criticism" if you will. But I've also heard some COBs use it in a, "Good job, shipmate" connotation.
Heck, within the past year there was some sort of official contest to define the term "Shipmate." (I don't remember if it was just a Pac Fleet thing or if it was a Navy-wide thing.) The winning definition most-definitely had a positive connotation.
So I pose the question to you - my loyal 5 or so readers - what do you think?
Is the fact that "shipmate" is in my vocabulary just a sign that I've always been some sort of lifer-digit-nerd?
Is the fact that I don't consider it derogatory or an insult just a sign that I've become "one of them"? A symptom of my being assimilated by the borg "the system" in my transition to being one of the "upstairs guys"? (Aside: On a 688, all but two of the officers live on the middle level in the vicinity of the wardroom. Only two officers don't live down there - the CO and XO's staterooms are the only two "upstairs" or in the upper level next to the control room.)
I wonder if there is a difference in the way the term is used in the surface navy versus the submarine force?