The fun part is that ratlin
, or ratling
is not about rodents.
Displaying the etymology takes a wee bit of effort.
If we stick with English
for the nonce, the key events
to note are:
* in the 15th century, ratling
is used as the name for a particular type of cordage, namely three-strand laid hemp rope
, usually tarred, of a medium dimension (fatter than 'small stuff' but much thinner than 'cable').
* by the early 17th century, ratlings
were the cordage steps made to the shrouds and then used as ladders by which mariners climbed high in the rigging
As with many of the nautical words in English
, the origins are best described as North Sea sailing vocabulary - a vocabulary shared by sailors working on the same sea and from time to time using the same ports
and boats regardless of 'national' identity.
The immediate ancestors of early 15th century ratling
are not neatly preserved on parchment. North Sea sailors' speak was an oral language, not a written one.
The etymologists fingers all point in one general direction in this case (dinnae be confused by the initial dual nature of the one direction): to (1) Old French, about 1150, and the word raelingue
, the cordage used as bolt rope to reinforce the edges of sails
or the edges of fishing
nets; and (2) Norman-French/Channel Islands French (undated, because it was not writtne down with a date of publication) rar-lik
, the cordage used as bolt rope to reinforce the edges of sails or the edges of fishing
Your copy of Dictionnaire de L’Academie Francaise
will like mine take you unerringly to the same point of origin agreed among the wise heads gathered around the table: Old Norse rar-lik
, the reinforced edge of a sail attached to a yardarm.
That exposes the components as Old Norse rar
, a spar, an oar, a sail-yard; and Old Norse lig
a bolt rope, a line, cordage.
Anyone paying attention so far will see that lig
is the same as the word leech
, currently used for the after edge of a fore-and-aft sail. And know that the predecessor is proto-Germanic lika
, a band or binding (that joins or holds things together), a joint of an arm or a leg (think of ligament
), an articulation; derived from the proto-Indo-European leyg
, to bind, to tie.