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Old 11-10-2008, 23:58   #16
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No room to swing a cat

In days of old when this form of punishment was still acceptable,the entire ship's company would be required to witness a flogging at close hand. A ship with a full compliment of crew would crowd around so that the one administering the punishment might not have enough room to swing his cat o' nine tails.


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Old 12-10-2008, 05:38   #17
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Originally Posted by emeraldsea View Post
...How about "son of a gun" the result of local girls sneaking aboard and getting pregnant under the cannon.
Ha! I like that one. I suppose sneaking off behind the cannon was the only way to find some privacy on a ship.


"Beating a Dead Horse" has perhaps a terrestrial origin, but here's the nautical take on it...

A "dead horse" was the term for something paid for in advance, for which no service had yet been rendered. Seamen were typically paid in advance for the first month at sea, and of course they would have spent the money before they had even boarded the ship. To the seaman, with his money gone, he was working that first month "for free."

To mark the end of this "dead horse" month, the crew would make an effigy of a dead horse, beat the thing, and dump it overboard in celebration. To officers on the ship, beating a dead horse described the difficulty in getting the crew to do any extra work during this first month at sea.

Related expression: "Horse Latitudes" describes a band of light winds and calm located about 30 degrees North Latitude. The name is said to come from the above mentioned custom of throwing a horse effigy overboard. It would be about a month into the voyage when those latitudes were reached, and corresponded to the seamen having worked off their advance pay.

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Old 14-10-2008, 12:29   #18
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"crows nest" They would have a cage of birds up the mast (not sure if they were crows or not) If they lost site of land and were not sure about their navigation, let the birds go and follow.
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Old 14-10-2008, 12:55   #19
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So there you go with differing beliefs.
I previously believed a crows nest was because that watch station looks like a crows nest - perched up there in the rigging. And I've never heard before of ships carrying crows to show direction when at sea - even Noah chose another bird.
Plus I believed horse latitudes were indeed the light wind areas where when sailing ships slowed and stores got low, that animals such as horses were dumped over rather than use up precious drinking water......
Would be good to get all these beliefs tracked back to absolute origins - but maybe thats not easy, eh:-)?
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Old 14-10-2008, 13:07   #20
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Originally Posted by TaoJones View Post
Sorry, Hud - I like the idea of this thread, but your example is bogus. Here's what has to say about it: Brass Monkeys

Huh... that's funny that Princeton recognizes the brass monkey as "a metal stand that formerly held cannon balls on sailing ships."

WordNet Search - 3.0

I suppose that a source from Princeton University trumps a page run " by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson ."
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Old 14-10-2008, 13:22   #21
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Originally Posted by skatastrophy View Post
Huh... that's funny that Princeton recognizes the brass monkey as "a metal stand that formerly held cannon balls on sailing ships."
WordNet Search - 3.0
I suppose that a source from Princeton University trumps a page run " by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson ."
George A. Miller, the “Princeton” authority, appears to be misinformed.
The Royal Navy, a slightly more authoritative source, records that cannon-balls were stored in planks with circular holes cut into them; not stacked in pyramids. These planks were known as 'shot garlands', not monkeys, and they date back to at least 1769, when they were first referred to in print.
A little geometry suggests that a pyramid of balls will topple over if the base is tilted by more than a few degrees. It doesn’t seem plausible that cannon-balls were stacked this way, aboard ship.

In this specific case, a source quoting GordMay on the CruisersForum, might trump a page run by George A. Miller*.

* A professor of psychology
Interesting to note that we share a triplet of initials (GAM)
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Old 14-10-2008, 15:46   #22
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About seven years ago my friend and fellow 'Dock Rat" Capt. Ron was talking with the crew that was laying the deck on the Woods Hole brigantine Robert C Seamans which was being built at the Martinac yard in Tacoma when they mentioned they were "paying the devil tomorrow". He asked them to explain, and was told that the seam between the outermost deck plank and the toe rail was called the "devil", and caulking it was called "paying the devil". Therefore all work done outboard that seam when under way was done "between the devil and the deep blue sea". Jesse
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Old 14-10-2008, 17:07   #23
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pirate Cap'n Ron?

Hoy! I think I know that guy!

He use to accuse me of waste'n the devil's excrement.

And I have first hand knowledge of beating a dead horse.
Or flogging a mule.
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Old 14-10-2008, 18:08   #24
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I would be happy to walk away with an accurate understanding of where / how "Port" and "Starboard" came to be.
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Old 14-10-2008, 18:22   #25
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A slushy slurry of fat was obtained by boiling or scraping the empty salted meat storage barrels. This stuff called "slush" was often sold ashore by the ship's cook for the benefit of himself or the crew. The money so derived became known as a "slush fund".
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Old 14-10-2008, 18:30   #26

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Port and Starboard have interesting historys

Star board comes from the Old English steorbord or "steering side" for the side of the boat where the steering oar was hung before rudders were in common use.

For a thousand years the OTHER side of the boat was the larboard after the loading or docking side (you wouldn't tie you ship with the oar against the dock). It's only relatively recently that English speaking sailors realized that Larboard and Starboard sound a lot alike, and shifted to useing "PORT" for the left side of the boat.
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Old 27-10-2008, 15:18   #27
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The one I always wonder about is being "Three sheets to the wind".
Anybody got a clue?
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Old 27-10-2008, 15:22   #28
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Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
Well, it's still a good story, don't you think?

It was sent to me by a historian who's written books about the history of the Caribbean, and is quite knowledgeable about the ships of that period. He also has a super sense of humor and is a great kidder. Maybe he was pulling my leg. Hud tells a good sea story.

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Old 27-10-2008, 17:24   #29
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Dear Shu,

As I understand it, the phrase relates to the old days of sails, when four sheets secured the sail. When one, two or three sheets were not secured the sail would loose it effectiveness and cause the boat to weave in an ever increasing manner. Ergo one sheet loose related to the boat as a sailor walking slighty inebriated. Three sheets loose and the boat would be staggering about like a drunken sailor


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Old 27-10-2008, 18:05   #30
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What does "AARRRR" (sp?) mean?

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