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Old 28-06-2015, 11:41   #1
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Question Nautical Expressions

Years ago I saw an article about common English expressions with nautical origins; unfortunately didn't save it. Any other language aficionados here? I'll contribute what I remember and see who else can add to the list.

"Ship has come in ...": From the days of merchant sail, an investor whose ship came in was likely to make a pretty good profit.

"In the offing ...": The offing is that part of the ocean that can be seen from land, so the above investor, while waiting for his ship to come in, might climb a hill to see if there was anything in the offing.

"The bitter end ...": No doubt obvious to all of you - if, while letting out anchor or just trying to get through life, you come to the bitter end, you're pretty much out of options.

Those are the ones that popped into my head so far; more may follow.
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Old 28-06-2015, 12:10   #2
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Re: Nautical Expressions

I enjoy language and nautical lingo/jargo and expressions have always been fun to see.

"I am pooped!"

"He was three sheets to the wind."

"I'm going to hit the head."

"I've been working like a galley slave."

"Any port in a storm."

And many more..
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Old 28-06-2015, 12:32   #3
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There's the devil to pay and no pitch hot.
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Old 28-06-2015, 12:45   #4
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Re: Nautical Expressions

"Checking the rigging"
"Golden Rivet"
"Mail buoy"
I think the galley slave thing was about the rowed slave ships or ships rowed by slaves.
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Old 28-06-2015, 13:10   #5
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Re: Nautical Expressions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsed View Post
There's the devil to pay and no pitch hot.
There's often more hidden in these than is obvious - does the "devil" in this case refer to some part of a boat that I don't know?

And while I'm thinking about it, I note that the sun's over the yardarm!
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Old 28-06-2015, 13:41   #6
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Re: Nautical Expressions

Loose cannon, keel hauled
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Old 28-06-2015, 13:45   #7
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Re: Nautical Expressions

The lesser of two weevils!
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Old 28-06-2015, 13:48   #8
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Re: Nautical Expressions

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Originally Posted by Badsanta View Post
Loose cannon
Speaking of that one, if you want an image of what it really means there's a fairly long description in a Victor Hugo novel (Ninety-Three [Quatrevingt-treize in French; I haven't read it in English so can't recommend a translation]).

It really brought it home to me - a loose cannon wasn't just a minor inconvenience; it could sink a ship.
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Old 28-06-2015, 13:48   #9
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Re: Nautical Expressions

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The lesser of two weevils!
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Old 28-06-2015, 13:54   #10
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Re: Nautical Expressions

Strike while the iron is hot? [which may have come from blacksmithing]
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Old 28-06-2015, 19:36   #11
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Re: Nautical Expressions

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnglaisInHull View Post
There's often more hidden in these than is obvious - does the "devil" in this case refer to some part of a boat that I don't know?

And while I'm thinking about it, I note that the sun's over the yardarm!
The "devil" was a word naming the seam between the garboard strake and the keel. The garboard strake was/is the lowest and longest plank in a wood vessel, for obvious reasons. In the great days of sail, many ships did not haul out or even dry out for years, and instead careened. During careening, the seams were recaulked with oakum and pitch. The oakum (old rope fibers untwisted) was hammered into the seams and sealed thereafter with hot pitch. This process of hammering oakum was known as "paying" oakum into the seam. The devil was not only the longest, but on a careened hull obviously the most difficult seam to pay, as even on the hardest careened vessel it may be awash, likely also cooling the pitch. Hence the job was one of the worst on the boat, and hence the expression, which was the second half of the implied counterfactual:

"IF you do x bad thing or it goes bad, THEN you'll have the devil to pay and no hot pitch!"

It is also the origin of the expression: "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Which now you can see is a bad place to be!

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Old 28-06-2015, 19:49   #12
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Re: Nautical Expressions

Navy Terminology, Origins of

Nautical Phrases | Everyday English phrases that were coined at sea - meaning and origin.
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Old 29-06-2015, 01:13   #13
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Re: Nautical Expressions

In New England - many of hte house on the harbour were built with a tower (or similar ) witha walkway around it. This is known as the "Widows walk" because wives of the seafarers would stand (or walk) up there spying out to sea in hopes of seeing their husband's ship coming in
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Old 29-06-2015, 04:21   #14
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Re: Nautical Expressions

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnglaisInHull View Post
... does the "devil" in this case refer to some part of a boat that I don't know? ...
The “devil” is a seam between the between the planking of a wooden ship, and to “pay” is to caulk pitch.

However, the other meaning of paying the Devil alludes to Faustian pacts in which hapless individuals pay for their wishes or misdeeds by forfeiting their soul. This allusion, and the everyday usage meaning 'I am in trouble now, I will have to pay for this later' predates the earliest recorded usage of 'devil' to mean the seam of a ship.
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Old 29-06-2015, 05:13   #15
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Re: Nautical Expressions

"Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."

A Brass monkey is the triangle thing used to store cannon balls on deck.

In cold weather the brass monkey and iron canonballs would have different contraction rates, causing the balls to fall.

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