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Nautical terms

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Just an interesting tidbit to add to our writing. I'll update as I can, (or if anyone wants to join in, feel free).

Before the mast

The position of the crew whose living quarters on board were in the forecastle (the section of a ship forward of the foremast). The term is also used more generally to describe seamen as compared with officers, in phrases such as, "he sailed before the mast." Most ships today have cabins for their crew.

Between the Devil and the Deep

The devil was the longest seam of the ship, thought to be the first plank on the outer hull of a wooden vessel from stem to stern. When at sea and the devil had to be caulked, the sailor hung from a rope to do so. He was suspended between the devil and the sea — a very precarious position, especially when the ship was underway.

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heard this one a lot as a kid

Toe the line

The space between each pair of deck planks in a wooden ship was filled with a packing material called "oakum" and then sealed with a mixture of pitch and tar. The result, from afar, was a series of parallel lines a half-foot or so apart, running the length of the deck. Once a week, as a rule, usually on Sunday, a warship's crew was ordered to fall in at quarters -- that is, each group of men into which the crew was divided would line up in formation in a given area of the deck. To insure a neat alignment of each row, the Sailors were directed to stand with their toes just touching a particular seam. Another use for these seams was punitive. The youngsters in a ship, be they ship's boys or student officers, might be required to stand with their toes just touching a designated seam for a length of time as punishment for some minor infraction of discipline, such as talking or fidgeting at the wrong time. A tough captain might require the miscreant to stand there, not talking to anyone, in fair weather or foul, for hours at a time. Hopefully, he would learn it was easier and more pleasant to conduct himself in the required manner rather than suffer the punishment. From these two uses of deck seams comes our cautionary word to obstreperous youngsters to "toe the line."

something the Navy always gave me plenty of and I still enjoy whenever possible :lol:

Square Meal.

In the rare instances when the ship was near enough to shore for fresh victuals and the weather was calm enough to serve the hot meal on plates, the crews' mess was served on square wooden platters. Hence the best, most nutritious meals on board were the square me

one of my favorites in my younger years... ok and still sometimes these days

Down the Hatch

Here's a drinking expression that seems to have its origins in sea freight, where cargoes are lowered into the hatch. (or drink into the gullet) First used by seamen, it has only been traced back to the turn of the century.

Obvious to me loading the "cargo hold" by dumping rum "down the hatch" repeatedly will result in "getting loaded" LOL thought that was and interesting

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For the sake of organization, I'm moving this to Non-Fiction. Please, keep up the entries! :lol:

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Bitter End

The end of the anchor line secured to a sturdy post on the deck called a bitt. The line was paid out in order to set the anchor. However, if the water was deeper than anticipated the rope would pay out to the bitter end . . . ooops.

Black Book

From the 1300's - a collection of maritime laws and conduct that became known as the Black Book of the Admiralty. The punishments for offenses was harsh, to say the least. Drowning, starvation, and marooning were punishments for serious offenses such as repeatedly sleeping on watch. As used today, if you're listed in someone's black book, you have offended them in some way. Luckily for you, physical punishments no longer apply.

Blind Eye

In 1801, during the Battle of Copenhagen, Admiral Nelson deliberately held his telescope to his blind eye, in order not to see the flag signal from the commander to stop the bombardment. He won. Turning a blind eye means to ignore intentionally.

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Rummage Sale

And no, it has nothing to so with rum... well, not directly anyway. Arrimage is French for a ship's cargo. Damaged cargo that could not be delivered and sold at cost was sold at discounted arrimage sales. The word quickly evolved into the nickname of rummage sales, which are still a source of great values today.

Clean Bill of Health

Captains throughout history have wished their ships to receive clean bills of health, but not to save money on repairs. As ships could be a means of spreading contagious illness, the term originally referred to a document that was given to a ship reporting that the port it was last in currently had no epidemic or major disease at the time.

Chew the Fat

Sailors were often given rations of salt pork during long voyages at sea, especially when the perishable foods ran out. This led to complaints about the food being a main portion of the dinner conversation, or a version of chewing the fat as they chewed their fat.

Edited by RustyNell

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Wonderful! Keep 'em com'n!!

fyi off topic trivia; in th' Army they also included "Toe The Line" t' reference one's uniform buttons. We where told t' 'toe the line' in making sure that our shirt buttons followed a straight line down t' our pant zipper...o'course they did naught have 'zippers' back then, unless ye be refer'n t' "zippers outta th' west" in which case ye would be speak'n 'bout th' wind 'n therefore naught buttons nor zippers at all, thus I said 'off topic'.

As Ye Were! Continue on please!

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got this from a Navy site...I like that they listed references...

Monkey

"Monkey" has numerous nautical meanings, such as a small coastal trading vessel, single masted with a square sail of the 16th and 17th centuries; a small wooden cask in which grog was carried after issue from a grog-tub to the seamen's messes in the Royal Navy; a type of marine steam reciprocating engine where two engines were used together in tandem on the same propeller shaft; and a sailor whose job involved climbing and moving swiftly (usage dating to 1858). A "monkey boat" was a narrow vessel used on canals (usage dating to 1858); a "monkey gaff" is a small gaff on large merchant vessels; a "monkey jacket" is a close fitting jacket worn by sailors; "monkey spars" are small masts and yards on vessels used for the "instruction and exercise of boys;" and a "monkey pump" is a straw used to suck the liquid from a small hole in a cask; a "monkey block" was used in the rigging of sailing ships; "monkey island" is a ship's upper bridge; "monkey drill" was calisthenics by naval personnel (usage dating to 1895); and "monkey march" is close order march by US Marine Corps personnel (usage dating to 1952). [sources: Cassidy, Frederick G. and Joan Houston Hall eds. Dictionary of American Regional English. vol.3 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1996): 642; Wilfred Granville. A Dictionary of Sailors' Slang (London: Andre Deutch, 1962): 77; Peter Kemp ed. Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea. (New York: Oxford University; Press, 1976): 556; The Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1933; J.E. Lighter ed. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. (New York: Random House, 1994): 580.; and Eric Partridge A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. 8th ed. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company): 917.]

"Monkey" has also been used within an ordnance context. A "monkey" was a kind of gun or cannon (usage dating to 1650). "Monkey tail" was a short hand spike, a lever for aiming a carronade [short-sight iron cannon]. A "powder monkey" was a boy who carried gun powder from the magazine to cannons and performed other ordnance duties on a warship (usage dating to 1682). [source: The Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1933.]

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The fact that so many of these colloquialisms, like the one below, have crept into our everyday speech is a great testament to our naval heritage.

Shows his true colors

Early warships often carried flags from many nations on board in order to elude or deceive the enemy. The rules of civilized warfare called for all ships to hoist their true national ensigns before firing a shot. Someone who finally "shows his true colors" is acting like a man-of-war which hailed another ship flying one flag, but then hoisted their own when they got in firing range.

Fathom

Although a fathom is now a nautical unit of length equal to six feet, it was once defined by an act of Parliament as "the length of a man's arms around the object of his affections." The word derives from the Old English Faethm, which means "embracing arms."

Scuttlebutt

The cask of drinking water on ships was called a scuttlebutt and since Sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became U.S. Navy slang for gossip or rumors. A butt was a wooden cask which held water or other liquids; to scuttle is to drill a hole, as for tapping a cask.

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Scuttlebutt

The cask of drinking water on ships was called a scuttlebutt and since Sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became U.S. Navy slang for gossip or rumors. A butt was a wooden cask which held water or other liquids; to scuttle is to drill a hole, as for tapping a cask.

Ahhh, so hang'n 'round th' ol' water cooler tis actually an Age Ol' Tradition then!

no wonder so many companies these days no longer have water coolers.

Me thinks at me next employment I will drop a suggestion in th' box for an office Wooden Cask o' drink'n water :rolleyes:

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Boatswain's Pipe

An unusually shaped whistle, it was used in ancient Greece and Rome to keep the stroke of galley slaves. The pipe was used in the Crusades to call English cross bowmen on deck for attack. A variety of tones can be produced, and each order had its own unique call. In time, the pipe came to be used as a badge of office by commanders. The pipe is still used, in the British and some other navies, for saluting visiting officers and other dignitaries.

Booby Hatch

A booby hatch is a small, covered compartment under the deck, toward the bow. Sailors were punished (perhaps by the Black Book) by confinement in the booby hatch. The term has come to mean (politically incorrectly) a mental institution, or to characterize some places I have worked.

Boot Camp

During the Spanish-American War, sailors wore leggings called boots, which came to mean a Navy (or Marine) recruit. These recruits trained in 'boot' camps.

Brought Up Short

A sailing ship underway could only be brought to an emergency standstill by dropping the anchors. Not a pleasant experience. Used today to mean a person brought to an unexpected standstill by a sudden change of fortune or circumstance.

Bumboat

A boat selling supplies or provisions to ships. Derived from the Dutch boomboat, a broad-beamed fishing boat. Or, possibly from bumbay, an old Suffolk word meaning quagmire. This word appeared in England in 1695 referring to scavenging boat regulations. These boats were employed to remove 'filth' from ships and also to carry fruits and vegetables for sale on board. (I didn't make that up!)

By Guess and By God

An early form of navigation, relying upon experience, intuition and faith. Has come to mean inspired guesswork.

By the Boards

Beyond the wooden boards that make up the deck and ship's planking. To throw over the side, or to pass by the side, of a vessel. To come aboard, on the other hand, means to come 'on the boards (deck)' of the vessel. (Still used today, though the wood is in short supply on most new boats.) By the boards has come to express a lost opportunity or to let something pass.

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Sheer Strake: The top plank on the side of a wooden boat that follows the sheer of the deck.

garboard strake: The first strake on each side of a keel.

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The history of words and sayings is a fascinating.

Between wind and water - The few feet around the waterline of a sailing vessel that are alternately exposed to water and air. A favorite target of naval gunners intent on sinking a ship as water would rush in as the ship rolled, but not where you wanted to shoot if you wanted to make prize of her.

Bring your arse to an anchor - Sit down

Rosewater sailor - An incompetent officer

Athwart or athwart ship - anything running across the ship at 90 degrees to the keel.

Round Robin or Robbin - Originally a French practice modified by English seamen where a petition is submitted to the officers and the crew signs their names in a circle so no ringleader can be singled out.

Ringleader - see above :D

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Carry On

In the days of sail, the officer of the deck kept a weather eye constantly on the slightest change in the wind so sail could be reefed or added as necessary to ensure the fastest headway. Whenever a good breeze came along, the order to 'carry on' would be given. It meant to hoist every bit of canvas the yards could carry. Today, the term means to continue with your work.

Chewing the Fat

Literally, eating the seaman's daily ration of tough, salt-cured pork or beef. Long before refrigeration, cured meats were tough but durable and it took a lot of chewing to make them edible. Has come to mean a friendly conversation (or talking too much, depending who's talking).

Clean Slate

Prior to GPS and onboard computers, courses and distances were recorded on a slate. At the end of each watch these were transcribed into the ship's log and the slate wiped clean for the next watch. Has come to mean starting anew.

Close Quarters

A small wooden fortress or barricade erected on the deck of a merchant ship when attacks by privateers were expected. Small openings, called loopholes, allowed the sailors to fire small weapons to protect the ship (and themselves, one would assume). Land-side, close quarters has come to mean in close contact or a small area. Loophole, from the French louvre (window), has come to mean a gap in the law.

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(raises hand)

Nell-what was the seventh one you said?

i'm writin' these down so i can impress somebody..anybody!

wonderful mates..a genuine treasure ye all betongue.gif GS

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Colors, True Colors, False Colors, Flying Colors

The flag flown by a vessel indicating its nationality was referred to as her colors. Long before radios, you can imagine how important this might have been, especially when engaged in battle. False colors were sometimes flown to avoid capture or to approach unsuspiciously (see bamboozle above). This was frowned upon in International Law, wherein it is accepted as a 'ruse of war' only if the ship is in immediate danger.

Coxswain (pronounced cocks'n)

A coxswain was the helmsman of a ship's boat. Originally, small boats carried on ships were known as cockboats or 'cocks', from whence the term derived. With the passing of time the coxswain became the helmsman of any boat, regardless of size.

Cranky

Possibly from the Dutch krengd, a crank was an unstable sailing vessel. Due to a faulty design, the imbalance of her cargo, or a lack of ballast, a crank would heel too far to the wind. Has come to mean irritable.

Crossing the Line

An ceremony performed onboard when passengers and/or crew cross the equator for the first time. A special initiation ceremony in which King Neptune and various other mythological characters participate. Owes its origin to ancient pagan rites.

Cup of Joe

Navy lore: Josephus Daniels (18 May 1862-15 January 1948) was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Among his reforms of the Navy were inaugurating the practice of making 100 Sailors from the Fleet eligible for entrance into the Naval Academy, the introduction of women into the service, and the abolishment of the officers' wine mess. From that time on, the strongest drink aboard Navy ships could only be coffee and over the years, a cup of coffee became known as "a cup of Joe".

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Staunch-Old French estanche-Watertight a vessel which has no leaks, hence firm reliable.

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(raises hand)

Nell-what was the seventh one you said?

i'm writin' these down so i can impress somebody..anybody!

wonderful mates..a genuine treasure ye all betongue.gif GS

which one are you refering to?

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Ok so I counted.... are you callin me a monkey!!! LOL!! ok... well... sometimes I am.... eeee ooooo oooo eeee eeee ooo ooo eeee :rolleyes:

Edited by RustyNell

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And who are you??? The grinder :rolleyes:

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You have no idea, I can grind an organ with the best of em. Gotta watch out for the "monkey fist" though.

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Ok, let me try one.... hot shot, all that tar oakum and canvas being flammable , A solid iron cannon shot would be heated red hot in the ship's forge , moved very quickly to the gundeck, loaded, aimed, and fired as quickly as possible, often inaccurately. The reason being a "junk wad" of shredded cloth would be placed between the charge and the red hot cannon ball to prevent an early miss fire before the gun could be run out again, however the moment was briefand the gun had to be fired as soon as possible. A red hot shot passing through a sail or rolling around or through the wooden ship would start fires wherever it touched. Of course this would be true on yer own boat too. "Son of a gun " is an interesting one too......

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Cut and Run

Most often thought to mean the cutting of an anchor line in an effort to make a quick getaway. Hard to imagine that many ship's masters enjoyed routinely losing an anchor or two, so it is probably more likely referring to the practice of securing the sails of a square-rigged ship with rope yarns that could easily be cut away when a quick departure was necessary.

Cut of His Jib

The term originated in the 18th century, when sailing navies could determine the nationality of a sailing vessel by the shape of their jib, long before her colors could be seen. (A jib is a triangular sail in the front of the boat.) Shore-side meaning is to judge a person by outward appearance.

Dead Horse

A ceremony held by British crews when they had been at sea four weeks and had worked off their initial advance, usually one month's wages (and usually long gone). The term 'flogging a dead horse' alludes to the difficulty of getting any extra work from a crew during this period, since, to them, it felt as though they were working for nothing.

Deep Six

A fathom, the unit of measurement in most maritime countries for the depth of the sea, is six feet. Sailors used the term to refer to throwing something overboard and it has come to mean getting rid of something.

Deliver a Broadside

A broadside was the simultaneous firing of the guns and/or canons on one side of a war ship. Quite a blow, as can be imagined. Today it means much the same type of all-out attack, though done (usually) with words.

Devil to Pay

Originally, this expression described one of the unpleasant tasks aboard a wooden ship. The devil was the ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with pay or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of 'paying the devil' (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was one of the worst and most difficult jobs onboard. The term has come to mean a difficult, seemingly impossible task. 'The devil to pay and no hot pitch'. Landlubbers, having no seafaring knowledge, assumed it referred to satan and gave the term a moral interpretation.

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heard this one a lot as a kid

Toe the line

The space between each pair of deck planks in a wooden ship was filled with a packing material called "oakum" and then sealed with a mixture of pitch and tar. The result, from afar, was a series of parallel lines a half-foot or so apart, running the length of the deck. Once a week, as a rule, usually on Sunday, a warship's crew was ordered to fall in at quarters -- that is, each group of men into which the crew was divided would line up in formation in a given area of the deck. To insure a neat alignment of each row, the Sailors were directed to stand with their toes just touching a particular seam. Another use for these seams was punitive. The youngsters in a ship, be they ship's boys or student officers, might be required to stand with their toes just touching a designated seam for a length of time as punishment for some minor infraction of discipline, such as talking or fidgeting at the wrong time. A tough captain might require the miscreant to stand there, not talking to anyone, in fair weather or foul, for hours at a time. Hopefully, he would learn it was easier and more pleasant to conduct himself in the required manner rather than suffer the punishment. From these two uses of deck seams comes our cautionary word to obstreperous youngsters to "toe the line."

something the Navy always gave me plenty of and I still enjoy whenever possible ;)

Square Meal.

In the rare instances when the ship was near enough to shore for fresh victuals and the weather was calm enough to serve the hot meal on plates, the crews' mess was served on square wooden platters. Hence the best, most nutritious meals on board were the square me

one of my favorites in my younger years... ok and still sometimes these days

Down the Hatch

Here's a drinking exp​ression that seems to have its origins in sea freight, where cargoes are lowered into the hatch. (or drink into the gullet) First used by seamen, it has only been traced back to the turn of the century.

Obvious to me loading the "cargo hold" by dumping rum "down the hatch" repeatedly will result in "getting loaded" LOL thought that was and interesting

Toe the Line comes from foot racing where the racers line up on a line or mark before starting. See http://grammartips.h...toetheline.html

Square Meal came from early 20th century rhyming slang for "fair" as is FDR's Square Deal.

Mark

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Cut and Run

Most often thought to mean the cutting of an anchor line in an effort to make a quick getaway. Hard to imagine that many ship's masters enjoyed routinely losing an anchor or two, so it is probably more likely referring to the practice of securing the sails of a square-rigged ship with rope yarns that could easily be cut away when a quick departure was necessary.

Cut of His Jib

The term originated in the 18th century, when sailing navies could determine the nationality of a sailing vessel by the shape of their jib, long before her colors could be seen. (A jib is a triangular sail in the front of the boat.) Shore-side meaning is to judge a person by outward appearance.

Dead Horse

A ceremony held by British crews when they had been at sea four weeks and had worked off their initial advance, usually one month's wages (and usually long gone). The term 'flogging a dead horse' alludes to the difficulty of getting any extra work from a crew during this period, since, to them, it felt as though they were working for nothing.

Deep Six

A fathom, the unit of measurement in most maritime countries for the depth of the sea, is six feet. Sailors used the term to refer to throwing something overboard and it has come to mean getting rid of something.

Deliver a Broadside

A broadside was the simultaneous firing of the guns and/or canons on one side of a war ship. Quite a blow, as can be imagined. Today it means much the same type of all-out attack, though done (usually) with words.

Devil to Pay

Originally, this exp​ression described one of the unpleasant tasks aboard a wooden ship. The devil was the ship's longest seam in the hull. Caulking was done with pay or pitch (a kind of tar). The task of 'paying the devil' (caulking the longest seam) by squatting in the bilges was one of the worst and most difficult jobs onboard. The term has come to mean a difficult, seemingly impossible task. 'The devil to pay and no hot pitch'. Landlubbers, having no seafaring knowledge, assumed it referred to satan and gave the term a moral interpretation.

Some of these definitions were written by the CANOE (Committee to Ascribe a Naval Origin to Everything).

Beating a Dead Horse doesn't need a nautical explanation. It means what it says literally. Once your horse is dead, beating it will not get any further work out of it.

The Devil to Pay is an interesting one. An alternate but related explanation is that the devil is the lowest seam exposed when careening a ship so you have to get it caulked fast. But the case is not closed on this. The earliest nautical use of this is mid 19th century but the term was used meaning Satan several times in the 18th century. See http://www.phrases.o...vil-to-pay.html

Don't you know damnation pays every man's scores... we knew we should have the Devil to pay one time or other, and now you see like honest men we have pawn'd our Souls for the whole Reckoning. (from Thomas Brown's Letters From the Dead to the Living, 1707)

Mark

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