[ ENGLISH ]

 

SHIVER MY TIMBERS!
NAUTICAL / SEAFARING JARGON
used by
LANDLUBBERS IN EVERYDAY SPEECH

by ALEC GILL

England is an island. And the English language has obviously absorbed much of the sea into the words and phrases we speak.

 

English is awash with sea-salt encrusted words and phrases. Our language is saturated with maritime history. The swell and storms of the world's oceans rolls of the tip off our tongues. English is an idiomatic language - peppered with phrases and Figures of Speech.

 

Today’s talk, then, should be 'Plain Sailing' if we 'All Haul together! "I am sure you will all help me along".

 

ILLOGICAL ENGLISH

Some people criticize the English language for being illogical. Indeed, idioms provide a good example for their argument. But I believe that the strength and beauty of English is rooted in the fact that it is illogical. Language is simply a means to an end - not an end in itself. Language is simply a means of expressing the human mind. The mind is illogical. So this aspect is obviously reflected in the language we speak.

 

IDIOM: (Oxford) a. a group of words established by usage and having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words; b. a form of expression peculiar to a language, person or  group of people (e.g. Mariners). Idioms add colour and rich imagery to the spoken words.

(Latin: idioma = own, private property)

 

STRUCTURE: update totals

            CREW = Mariners / passengers                                          29

            SHIP = different parts within Sail / Steam / General         42

            ELEMENTS = Weather / Water / Wind / Fish                  27

            ASHORE = When the ship lands / docks                              7

                                                                                                          _____

                                                                                                          105

 


Summer 1998

 

SHIVER MY TIMBERS!NAUTICAL / SEAFARING JARGON used by LANDLUBBERS IN EVERYDAY SPEECH

by ALEC GILL

 

Please get your thinking-caps on! What everyday expressions can you jot down in connection with the following areas of maritime life?

 

 

(1) THE CREW: (a) General / (b) Booze / (c) Punishment / (d) Sex

1. Son of a Gun

2. A Girl in Every Port....

 

 

 

THE SHIP: (a) Sail / (b) Steam / (c) General

1. Burning One's Boats

2. To Take the Wind Out of someone's sails...

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ELEMENTS: (a) Weather / (b) Water / (c) Wind..

1. In the Doldrums.

2. Sail Close to the Wind...

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASHORE:

1. When my Boat Comes In...

 


(1) C R E W  /  PASSENGERS

 

GENERAL:

 

OLD SALT:

            M: Retired person; a genuine sort of person.

            O: Veteran mariner - mainly fisherman.

 

LIMEY:

            M: English person in the States.

            O: Yankie term for a British seaman. From the lime-juice they used to drink as a precaution against scurvy.

 

 

ALL HANDS ON DECK / ALL TOLD:

            M: Everyone should gather together to their stations / Positions and prepare for action....

 

 

GIVE A HAND:

            M: Can you help me for a moment.

            O: The use of the singular word 'Hand' indicates that this is a nautical phrase. A seafarer always had to keep 'one hand for himself' to hold on to the rigging for safety reasons. Therefore, he only had one hand free to help anyone else. Thus, the phrase / request for "a hand".

 

KNOW (LEARN) THE ROPES:

            M: Applied to a novice learning a new job.           

            O: Have a detailed knowledge of the ship's rigging.

 

 

THERE'S ENOUGH BLUE IN THE SKY...  (LET AUDIENCE FINISH THIS LONG EXPRESSION)TO MAKE A PAIR OF SAILOR'S TROUSERS:

            M: The cloudy weather will clear and turn out sunny.

            O: ? Dutch sailors used to weave very baggy trousers

My mother often said this one.

 

 

POP-EYE THE SAILOR MAN:

            Joke  = He is becoming so popular again, that sale of spinach are on the increase. The newspaper article made no mention about the sales of Olive Oil!

 

 

POSH:

            Abbreviation: Port Outward, Starboard Home. A term used on luxury P & O liners sailing to the Far East to indicate which side of the vessel was the most comfortable - for wealthy passengers who paid extra for being on the cooler side of the ship. The word POSH soon came to be applied to the first-class passengers. (Brewer, however, states that "This traditional explanation is apparently fictitious" p.873). And the Oxford Dictionary claims it to be "from a slang word meaning Dandy".

 

 

PLUMB THE DEPTHS:

            M: Find out what is going on.??

            O: Using a lead weight on a line to determine the unseen depth of water below the ship.

 

 

FATHOM SOMETHING OUT:

            M: I cannot understand something or someone.

            O: To determine the depth of something. "I cannot fathom it out!" - my lead-line was not long enough to reach the bottom.

 

 

P U N I S H M E N T ::

 

GANGWAY:

            M: Get out of the way. Usually shouted at ratings for them to step aside for a superior naval officer. (RN)

            O: In the slave galley ships, the gangway was the boarded gap between the rowers which allowed the slaves to walk from the stem to  the stern. And where the tall mast was laid when the galley was unshipped.

            J: On a Galley ship there was an evil-minded Slave Driver who beat the gong for the rhyme of rowers. When it was his birthday he picked on one of the slaves and tied him to the gong and beat his chest with the hammer. One slave was a bit of a Smart Alec. When he was brought forward he rubbed a handful of grease onto his chest. Every time the Slave Driver hit him with the gong it just had no effect. Suddenly all the other Rowers started singing aloud, "Oh! They're sliding a gong off the chest of a slave!"

 

 

NO ROOM TO SWING A CAT:

            M: Lack of space in a room or house. Very restrictive / small area.

            O: Naval expression - the Cat is the Cat o'Nine Tails or whip. On the old sailing ships there was not enough room below decks to swing the whip. That is why beatings were administered on the deck before the rest of the crew. (see Brewer p.202 for other accounts about Sportsmen and Scottish hangings).

            This sort of flogging was meted out in both the Army and Navy. It was not  formally abolished as a civil punishment for crimes of violence until 1948. One belief was that it was nine whips together because it was a "Trinity of trinities" - both a blessing and beating at the same time.

ISLE of MAN: Still use Cat o'Nine Tails.

R.N. SHIP'S NOTICE:

"THE FLOGGINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES"

 

 

KEEL HAULED

            M: Severe, cruel, virtually a death sentence.

            O: Dutch ships?

 

 

A RIGHT JONAH:

            M: A jinx person who brings bad luck to others.

            O: Hebrew minor prophet...Book of the Old Testament. God called him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. He disobeyed and tried to escape by sea, but during a storm he was blamed and thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish (whale?). He eventually completed his mission...

 

CHANCE ONE'S ARM (or Luck):

            M: Do something against the rules and regulations which, if caught in the act, would result in serious consequences.

            O: In the Navy an officer would be demoted - with the loss of rank - the badges on the arm of the jacket were removed.

 

SHANGHAI:

 

MOONLIGHTING:

            M: Person who holds two jobs.

            J:

            O: a smuggler who landed contraband at night under the light of the moon.

 

 

A DROWNING MAN WILL CLUTCH AT A STRAW:

            M: A desperate person in a dangerous plight will reach out at anything for help...

            O: 19th.c. Proverb

 

 

SWINGING THE LEAD:

            M: A lazy person who does not do the job properly. A malinger who usually concocts an elaborate yarn to conceal laziness.

            O (TWO OPPOSITE TALES?): Using a heavy lead when a ship was approaching shallow waters was hard work. Sometimes a mariner in the bow would cheat and, instead of lowering the lead line to get an accurate sounding, he simply swung it over the side of the ship.

            Equally, swinging the lead was a relatively easy job compared with climbing the rigging and other shipboard tasks. So the sailor had it easy if he was told to swing the lead!

 

 

TOE THE LINE:

            M: Do as you are told.

            O: To submit to discipline or regulations; to come into line with the rest. Present yourself for duty and perform it correctly.

 

HAVE A COB ON:

            M: Grievance, sulking.

            O: from M.N. steward's term from the old nautical cob (to strike with the fist)...? I need to check this out more in future...?

 

 

PIPE DOWN:

            M: Stop being aggressive or noisy, cease talking.

            O: A naval colloquialism derived from the boatswains' call of this name meaning "hands turn in". An official order to be quiet and not talk so loud.

            Navy's version of Army's "Lights out".

 

 

TELL IT TO THE MARINES!:

            M: Usually a remark that greets any tall story.

            O: King Charles II disbelieved that there were flying fish in the South Seas after he has been told of their existence by Samuel Pepys. However, a Royal Marine, who was standing close by, confirmed that it was true. And if an upstanding, trusted Royal Marine believed the yarn, then it must have some validity.

            Apparently, British PoWs were forced by the Japanese to broadcast a message to their fellow soldiers that everything was fine. They concluded their false tale by declaring "...tell that to the soldiers, tell that to the navy, and tell it to the Marines!" Which told every British soldier that it was a pack of lies....

 

 

ALL IN THE SAME BOAT:

            M: Everyone sharing the same adverse conditions.

            O: 16th.c.Proverb.

 

B O O Z E :

 

PUSH THE BOAT OUT:

            M: To celebrate lavishly.

            O: Stand a round of drinks in the wardroom. Coaster?

 

 

DOWN THE HATCH:

            M: swig back a drink quickly. The ship's hold is analogous to the human stomach.

 

 

TO DRINK LIKE A FISH:

            M: To drink abundantly or  excessively.

            O: Many fish swim opened-mouth, thus appearing to be continually drinking. The expression is found in Beaumont and Fletcher (whoever they are?) 17th.c. Proverb.

 

 

SPLICE THE MAINBRACE:

            M: Issue an extra tot of rum to the ship's company on the occasion of a celebration.

            O: In sailing ships the main brace was the most difficult to splice, it being placed in a highly dangerous position, and when the hands had finished the job they received the said a tot of grog (watered down rum - but it had to be watered down anyway because it was 100% proof?).

Apparently, the Queen usually gives this order aboard R.Y. Britannia after a particularly good Royal trip.

(RELATED?: 'When the sun comes over the yard-arm' ??

 

 

THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND: (repeated)

            M: A drunk who staggers along the street out of control or his mind.

            O: (1) A sheet is a rope attached to the clew of a sail used for trimming the sail. If the sheet is free it is said to be a 'sheet in the wind' (the colloquial expression is to be 'tipsy'). Therefore, to have three sheets in the wind is to be very drunk.

            (2) Three foresails head into the wind - therefore, a good thing?

            Taboo: Never hang three sheets on a washing line - bad omen for those at sea.

 

S  E  X  :

 

SHOW (SHAKE?) A LEG:

            M: Hurry up with what you are doing. Jump out of bed and be sharp about it. To call the hands out of their hammocks.

            O: from the days when women were permitted to sleep on board. They were allowed to 'lie in' and had to 'show a leg' to ensure that no rating was still turned in. From the days when women went to sea. They were allowed an extra lie-in from the male ratings.

 

 

SON OF A GUN:

            M: a good fellow despite his rough manners. Used in a jocular vein to describe such a person.

            O: In Nelson's day, women were allowed to live aboard warships such as HMS Victory. There was much heavy drinking and debauchery on the gun decks. A male child conceived - especially when the father was unknown - was entered on the ship's log as 'a son of a gun'.(R.N.)

            What if it was a girl - what was entered??

            J: I've heard about playing with guns, but that's ridiculous!

            J: If someone is the 'Son of a Gun' does that mean his father  is a Canon in the Church?

 

GUN HO!:

            M: Work together in harmony.

            O: A phrase picked up by the U.S. Marines during World War II from the Chinese which means "Work Together".

 

 

A GIRL IN EVERY PORT:

            M: An amorous sailor who got a girl-friend wherever he landed.

            J: All the Nice Girls Love A Sailor - SONG?

.

 

HANDS ACROSS THE SEAS:

            M: International friends in other countries.

            O: ?

 

TURN IN:

 

SWALLOW THE ANCHOR:

            M:

            O: Retire from the sea.(RN/MN)

 

 

 

(2) THE SHIP

SAIL:

 

THE CUT OF HER JIB:

            M: something to be admired "I like the cut of her jib". Usually referred to the contour or expression of a person's face.          O: The shape of a ship's fore/headsail. A sailor was expected to be able to tell the nationality of an  approaching vessel by the cut of her sails. This distinguished the quality and character of the vessel.

 

 

SHIVER MY TIMBERS!:

            M: Expression of surprise - especially when a ship runs aground. Shiver is used in the sense of 'shatter' - splinter into pieces. Timbers = the wooden hull.

            O: More used in theatrical sense of stage sailors or authors of children's books.

            J:  Do your Long John Silver accent: "Arh! Jim Lad!...Pieces of Eight, Pieces of Eight"

 

 

PUT ONE'S OAR IN (into my boat):

            M: Interfere in someone else's business.

Does this link with the Galley ships or Oxford - Cambridge Boat Race??

 

 

REST ON ONE'S OARS

 

 

PLAIN SAILING:

            M: Ones troubles and anxieties are a thing of the past (behind you).

            O: In charge of a sailing vessel in ideal conditions..

 

 

TO TRIM ONE'S SAILS:

            M: To modify or reshape one's policy or opinion to meet the circumstances.

            O: A ship's sails are 'trimmed' or adjusted according to the wind.

 

UNDER WAY

 

TO TAKE THE WIND OUT OF ONE'S SAILS:

            M: To slow someone down who is racing along at full speed. Perhaps to bring down a proud person a peg or two?? Or put forward a counter view or evidence.

            O: 19th.c.Proverb?

 

GET SPLICED:

            M: Join together in marriage.

            O: Join ends of ropes by intertwining the strands.

 

GET HITCHED:

            M: Join together in marriage.

            O:

 

GET KNOTTED:

            M: Abusive term telling someone to get lost.

            O:

 

HARD LINES:

 

MONEY FOR OLD ROPE:

            M: To get something for nothing. An easy job. To get good money for something with is worthless. Big reward for little effort.

            O: Old rope was once purchased by dealers for the manufacture of binding and paper boards.

 

HAUL AWAY:

            O: A hauling shanty of the sailing ships..

 

TAKE THE HELM:

 

HELL'S BELLS AND BUCKETS OF BLOOD:

            M: Exclamation!

            O: Very old Naval exclamation. Source not known.

 

SPOIL THE SHIP (SHEEP) FOR A HA'PORTH OF TAR:

            M: By saving a little, a lot is lost. Leave a job half done.

            O: Caulking the wooden decks of a ship to protect against the elements. (This saying can refer to sheep as well as ships.)

 

 

SHIP SHAPE AND BRISTOL FASHION:

            M: Everything in perfect order.

            O: A ship ready for sea. Bristol was synonymous with seamanlike efficiency and smartness in the days of sail. To be completely organized and ready for sea.

 

 

SHOT ACROSS THE BOWS:

            M: A warning signal to bring to heel. Otherwise, worse will follow.

            O: From the days of sail and cannon when Royal Navy deliberately fired a cannon ball across the front of a pirate or enemy vessel to bring it under its control.

 

 

LOOSE CANNON:

            M: Someone who goes their own way and does not conform to agreed standards of behaviour. Unpredictable person. Prince Diana was sometimes described as a 'loose canon' within the Royal Family.

            O:

 

ON AN EVEN KEEL:

            M: A state of stability and balance.

            O: In ship-yard when a boat is built correctly.

 

 

RATS DESERT A SINKING SHIP:

            M: A derogatory term for a person who leaves friends at the first sign of trouble.

            O: 17th.c. proverb. Superstition = If seafarers saw a rat leaving a ship this is an ominous sign that the ship would sink.

 

 

NAILED YOUR COLOURS TO THE MAST:

            M: no surrender.

            O: Surrender at sea was indicated by hauling down one's colours. But by nailing ones flag to the mast meant this could not be done. The crew would fight to the bitter end with no chance of compromise.

 

 

CUT AND RUN:

            M: To escape by a sudden manoeuvre.

            O: To cut a ship's anchor cable in an emergency and make sail in a hurry - especially when the anchor ropes were made of hemp. This happened when the Spanish Armada was anchored off Calais. Most of the captains cut their cables on the approach of Howard's fire ships. (MN/RN)

S T E A M

 

GIVE A WIDE BERTH (STEER CLEAR):

            M: Avoid a person who is in a foul mood. To keep a safe distance away from a person, especially if they are dangerous.

            O: Allow a ship plenty of room to swing at anchor. To keep a safe distance.

 

STEER CLEAR

            M: Avoid bumping into each other.

            Navigating tip: "A little RED PORT LEFT in the bottle" to remember difference between Red Port and Green Starboard.

 

AT A RATE OF KNOTS:

            M: To go at top speed. Someone who is travelling or driving very fast.

            O: Knots

 

SOS = Save Our Ship:

            O: This abbreviation was adopted internationally on 1st.July 1908. The ill-fated Titanic was one of the first ships to use this distress call in 1912 and 703 lives were saved. Not necessarily "Save Our Ship/Soul" - more mundanely, in Morse Code, the three dots and dashes were more clearly understood signals in an emergency.

            J: "Re-arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic" - tinkering about when should be dealing properly with a serious problem.

 

MAY DAY!

            M: Distress signal/call for help because life in peril.

            J: Mae West - when life-belts around waist one looked like the buxom Mae West!!!

            O: This expression is a corruption of two French words of distress 'Venez M'aider!'' (Come Help Me!). The English not only shortened this plea for help, but also made it rhyme.

 

 

THE CAPTAIN GOES DOWN WITH HIS SHIP:

            M: If you are the boss, you have to take the blame?

            O:

            J: The Shepherd goes down in his Sheep!

 

 

FULL STEAM AHEAD:

            M: Get going as fast as possible. Go at top speed.

            O: From the time of the Industrial Revolution - could apply to steam trains or ships. Cargo vessels were once known as S.S. Borodino / Cicero for Steam Ship.

 

 

SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT:

            M: Chance acquaintance only encountered once.

            O: Longfellow 'Tales of a Wayside Inn' III.

 

 

BRASSED OFF:

            Means = Fed up with self, job, life, etc.

            O: (R.N.) Resentment of doing excessive polishing of bright (or brass) work aboard H.M. Ships.

            The Army = Browned off! The RAF = Cheesed off!

 

GENERAL SHIP TERMS

 

TOUCH AND GO:

            M: a close scrape or near thing.

            O: a ship which touches the seabed or rocks, but is able to sail on without stopping.

 

TOUCH BOTTOM:

TAKE IN TOW:

 

FROM STEM TO STERN:

            M: From beginning to end; front to back; top to bottom. The complete lot of anything.

            O: THE STEM : the main upright timber or metal piece at the bow of the ship to which the sides are joined at the front / pointed end.

            THE STERN: the rear / flat end of the ship (Old Norse = steer).

 

HIT THE DECK:

            M: get down to avoid being hit or whatever.

            O: Land an aircraft on a carrier's deck.

 

 

CLEAR THE DECKS:

            M: Put everything away ready for action.

            O: Make the vessel seaworthy so that any loose objects are not washed overboard..

 

 

 

EVERYTHING (IS) ABOVE BOARD:

            M: Honest and straightforward with nothing hidden out  of sight below deck. Also related to gambling at the card table "There is nothing up my sleeve".

            O: .

 

BURNING ONE'S BOATS:

            M: To take an irrevocable step. To cut oneself off from all chance of retreat.

            O: 19th.c. British proverb. Traced back to 8th. century Saracen leader called TARIK who landed his Islamic forces on the beaches of Gibraltar (actually, the Rock is named after him = The Hill of Tarik) to invade Catholic Spain. He ordered that all the wooden sailing vessels which had brought them from North Africa be burnt on the beaches. After this dramatic act he told his soldiers "There is the sea, there is the enemy. There is no going back until a victory has been won".

            Similar = "Crossing the Rubicon" and Ceasar in 49 BC.

This expression is also attributed to the Greeks during the Trojan Wars and to Pisaro when the Spanish conquered the Incas of South America.

 

 

HIGH, DRY AND UNHANDSOME:

            M: Stranded, left out of the current of events.

            O: A ship run aground.

 

TO THE BITTER END:

            M: Stick it out until the end of the job. Keep going.

            O: That portion of the anchor rope abaft (which remains behind) the 'bitts' or bollards (the inboard end) after the anchor in fully payed out - when the vessel is riding at anchor.(M.N.)

It is, however, the word 'bitter' which has tainted this phrase into a highly negative one akin to 'affliction / hostility / adverse fortune'. In addition, there is a Proverb V.4. "But her end was bitter as wormwood" which may have influenced this phrase.

 

 

KNOCK SEVEN BELLS OUT OF SOMEONE

            Assume this is nautical - but needs specific research as to why it is seven? Or is this from the world of boxing? Not found.

 

 

SLING YOUR HOOK:

            M: Clear off away from me.

            O: Not nautical. A theatrical term when the manager in the wings hooked off a poor act.

 

MISS THE BOAT:

            M: Lost opportunity. Late for an appointment... need to double check.

 

WEIGH ANCHOR:

            M: To begin an enterprise which has been in abeyance for some time.

            O: To haul up the anchor. When it is cleared / freed from the seabed it is aweighed / hanging.

 

DON'T ROCK THE BOAT:

            M: Conform to what the rest of the group are doing. Do Not step our of line otherwise we will all be in trouble.

            O: In a small rowing boat anyone standing up unexpectedly will rock the boat and that is dangerous.

 

 

FIND ONE'S BEARINGS

KEEP ALOOF

BOX THE COMPASS

SPEAK BY THE (compass) CARD

GO BY THE BOARD

ON ONE'S BEAM ENDS

GUYS & DOLLS?

 


(3) WEATHER / WATER / WIND

 

 

WEATHER THE STORM:

 

KEEP A WEATHER EYE OPEN:

 

TO MAKE HEAVY WEATHER:

            M: To complain of difficulty in doing a job.

            O: A ship labouring in a steep sea.

 

 

ANY PORT IN A STORM:

            M: When someone is in serious difficulties, they will  go anywhere for help and safety - even swallowing their principles.

            O: When in a life-and-death situation, one is forced to put into the nearest port regardless.

 

IN THE DOLDRUMS:

            M: Depression, slackness, inactivity.

            O: In the oceans near the Equator (in between the Trade Winds), there are areas where a sailing ship could be becalmed for days or weeks on end. 40 degrees South of the Equator.

 

 

CROSSING THE LINE: EQUATOR?

            Meaning ?

            O: ?

 

DAVY JONES' LOCKER:

            Bottom of the sea (1785). The grave of drowned seafarers.

 

 

BRASS MONKEY WEATHER:

            M: Extremely cold bitter weather.

            O: ??

 

W A T E R

 

IN DEEP WATER:

            M: Someone out of their depth. In serious difficulties, in great perplexity.

            O: ??

 

ALL AT SEA:

 

KEEP ONE'S HEAD ABOVE WATER:

            M: someone who is only just managing to survive.

            O: ? Self explanatory.

 

IN THE DRINK:

            M: In the sea, in the water.

            O: Long-established nautical slang.

 

IN DEEP WATER:

IN TROUBLED WATERS:

DEAD IN THE WATER:

 

TIME AND TIDE WAIT FOR NO ONE:

            M: The folly of procrastination. Get on with the job in hand. Do not wait around wasting an opportunity.

            O: ? King Canute 1014

 

POUR OIL ON TROUBLED WATERS:

            M: Try to calm a difficult situation. To soothe by gentle words; to use tact and diplomacy.

            O: Bede (731) gave oil to a young priest about to escort some important dignitaries on a sea journey. (check Brewer p.795).

See new Nautical Regulations.

Oil and water don't mix (But they make a fine emulsion?) .

 

TO TREAD WATER:

            M: ? to stay in one spot.

            O: By moving hands and feet in the water, the body is kept upright and the head above water and able to breath.

 

 

IN THE OFFING:

            M: something that is due to happen soon - like a the prospects of a new job, etc.

            O: Ship seen appearing on the edge of the distant horizon (e.g. its mast or funnel first appears) before the full view is seen. This is describing as being "In the offing".

 

 

CATCH THE (YOUR) DRIFT:

            Meaning + I understand what you are saying or where you are coming from.

            O: To make a favourable tidal stream.

 

 

TO TIDE SOMEONE OVER HARD TIMES:

            M: to help someone out or lend them money while present difficulties pass.

            O: ? To make use of a high tide over rocks or a shoal.

 

 

ON THE CREST OF A WAVE:

HIGH WATER MARK:

AT A LOW EBB:

ON THE ROCKS:

 

AFTER / BEFORE THE FLOOD:  or

IT CAME OFF THE ARK:

            M: Something extremely old / ancient.

            O: The Bible / Old Testament...

            J: "I was reading the other day about some school pupils who thought that Noah's wife was called Joan of Arc".

            J: Some people think my jokes came off The Ark. The truth, however, is that I cribbed them from The Dead Sea Scrolls.

 

HAVE A CRACK AT IT:

            M: Give it a try. Go to it.

            O: ??

 

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA:

            M: Someone in a no win situation. Whatever they do is thwart with danger / risks.

            O: ?? 19th.c. Proverb

 

SAIL CLOSE TO THE WIND:

            M: Take risks by defying rules. Figuratively, to go to the limits of what decency or propriety. To act so as just to escape the letter or infringement of the law. To take a big risk.

            O: from technical sense of sailing. To keep the vessel's head as near the quarter from which the wind is blowing as possible, yet keep the sails filled.  19th.c. Proverb.

 

Second copy here (used also for Crew & Booze)

 

THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND:

            M: A drunk who staggers along the street out of control or his mind.

            O: (1) A sheet is a rope attached to the clew of a sail used for trimming the sail. If the sheet is free it is said to be a 'sheet in the wind' (the colloquial expression is to be 'tipsy'). Therefore, to have three sheets in the wind is to be very drunk.

            (2) Three foresails head into the wind - therefore, a good thing?

            Taboo: Never hang three sheets on a washing line - bad omen for those at sea.

 

HEAD TO WIND:

            M: tough going ahead. Facing difficulties.

            O: Trawling term of keeping the ship's bow toward the wind in order to ride out the storm and try to avoid being hit broadside by the strong winds which might capsize the vessel.

 

 

HOOK, LINE & SINKER:

            M: A gullible person who has swallowed a tall tale completely.

            O: A hungry fish which was stupid enough not just to take the baited hook, but the lead weight (sinker) and some of the line. Angling / line fishermen.

 

HOOKED:

            M: Currently = addicted to drugs. Formerly = a man was 'hooked' by a woman who wanted to marry him.

            O: Obviously, analogous to a fish caught by a baited hook.

 

FISH OUT OF WATER:

            M: A person out of their usual environment who thus feels awkward. One who is restless because outside own occupation.

            O: ?

 

FISH FOR COMPLIMENTS:

            M: To try to obtain praise, usually by asking leading questions.

            O: Angling.

            J: Now would I do that with such a wonderful audience like yourselves?

 

THAT'S ANOTHER KETTLE OF FISH:


(4) A S H O R E

 

A LEADING LIGHT:

            M: ?

            O: A navigation light used to guide a ship on safe passage into a port or harbour.

 

 

WHEN MY BOAT COMES IN:

Any Lottery winners in the audience?

            M: A promise to pay off an outstanding debt. When I make my fortune.

            O: a colloquial adoption of the old legal phrase dating from 1536 in "Select Pleas in the Court of the Admiralty" whereby a person/merchant promised to pay within so many days of the safe arrival of his ship.

            J: "When my boat comes in  - knowing my luck -  it'll probably be the Titanic!".

 

 

WORSE THINGS HAPPEN AT SEA:

            M: If things are bad ashore, then they could be ten times worse at sea. This is one of my favourite phrases, anyway?

            O: ? 19th.c.Proverb.

 

 

SINK OR SWIM:

            M: You will fail or succeed.

            O: A neat alliterative expression which sounds as if it is nautical, but it definitely is not!! Indeed, it comes from the period of the witch hunts when women were thrown into local rivers with their hands tied behind their backs (mostly after a thorough beating) and if they floated they were a witch, but if they sank they were innocent....

 

 

THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND SHIPS:

            M: Description of a beautiful woman.

            O: Based upon Helen of Troy in Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlow (1564-93)

 

 

LAND IN DEBT:

            M: Someone in financial problems.

            O: A Hull trawlerman could end a three-week voyage actually owing money to his trawler-baron boss if the expense of the voyage exceeded the price of the fish landed on the quayside (perhaps due to a poor catch, a glut of fish forced prices down on the fish market, or he had previously had a 'sub' from the firm in order to buy, from the Fish Dock  store, his Arctic winter clothing to work in the freezing conditions).

 

ON TENTERHOOKS:

            M: Anxious person, highly strung, worried.

            O: NOTE: Brewer highlights the work of the weavers.

            Locally =  the Scottish Herring Girls who travelled around the British coast from port to port 'tentered' herring onto needle-sharp hooks on racks before the fish was hung in a tall smoke house during the production of kippers. I would love to debate this issue with a historian of the cloth industry to see which industry began this practise first. But what is true is that this phrase was employed in both industries and so enhanced the English language. I, therefore, claim it as a maritime term.

            Latin: "Tendere" for stretch.

There is also a link with the Butchers trade..

 

CONCLUDING QUOTE:

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood,

Leads on to Fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of your life.

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

 

On such a full sea are we now afloat

And we must take the current when it serves

Or lose our Venture.

 

Brutus in JULIUS CAESAR (4,3,216)

by William Shakespeare

 

 

MISC. SEA-BASED EXPRESSIONS TO CHECK OUT

IN THE DOG HOUSE

A SQUARE MEAL -

HALF BOARD

DOG WATCH

FIRE DOWN BELOW

IRON RATIONS - forces

SALT SOMETHING AWAY

MAN OVERBOARD

MAN THE LIFEBOATS

GOT HIM OVER A BARREL

TAKE THE BISCUIT

ON THE WRONG TACK ?

SCUTTLED YOUR PLANS

TO CROSS THE BAR (Death link?)

TO SKYLARK

ALL AT SEA

ROARING FORTIES

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

OUT OF THE BLUE

LEFT STRANDED

HARD AND FAST

SEE HOW THE LAND LIES

THE LAY OF THE LAND

THE COAST IS CLEAR

THAT'S ANOTHER KETTLE OF FISH

SOMETHING IN THE WIND

IT'S AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NOBODY ANY GOOD

BLOW HOT AND COLD - Aesop’s Fables

BREAK THE ICE

BREAK IN THE CLOUDS

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING

TO CLEAR THE AIR

PRAISED TO THE SKIES

HEAD IN THE CLOUDS

CASTLES IN THE AIR

UNDER A CLOUD

AS RIGHT AS RAIN

LIKE (Grease) LIGHTNING

A BOLT FROM THE BLUE

TRUE BLUE (from the sky?)

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

HAVING A WHALE OF A TIME

STEMMING THE TIDE

STORM IN A TEACUP?

FORGE AHEAD

LUMP SUM

ROUND ROBIN

FISH OUR OF WATER

IN THE AFTER FISH ROOM = some cash in your back pocket?

SCRAPPING THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

UP STREAM WITHOUT A PADDLE

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER:

            from Uncle Tom's Cabin. If a slave was not working vary hard, he was threaded by the owner who would say, "You'll be sold down the river" meaning the next big town along the Mississippi or whatever (Kay Murphy)        

NEED LYRICS FOR "What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?"

 

 

CONCLUDING QUOTE:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood,
Leads on to Fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of your life.
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our Venture."

Brutus in JULIUS CAESAR (4,3,216)
by William Shakespeare

RETURN TO 'ENGLISH'^