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Old 26-02-2021, 14:48   #1
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Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Somebody who’s been on the water for quite a bit says that the word “pinhead” is used for a particular type of person on a boat. Anybody heard of this?
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:05   #2
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

I find pinhead a generic term with many definitions and uses. Pinhead along with a few dozen other words convey the same type of message.
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:06   #3
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

I’ve referred to main sails as pinheads......someone with a pinhead would resemble Beldar conehead.
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:07   #4
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

I've never heard of this being a nautical phrase. Always assumed a pinhead was someone whose brain was as small as the head of a pin, and therefore dumb and to be disregarded.

However, there are tons of common phrases with origins in sailing that are not obvious. Would love to learn another if anyone knows the origin!

Also, it would probably be fun to make up an origin for the term pinhead and spread it around Here's my submission for the fabricated origin of "pinhead"

Calling someone a "pinhead" is a reference to the belaying pins ubiquitous on ships during the age of sail. The head of these pins are round and bulbous, which helps to keep lines that are secured on the pins from sliding upward and coming loose. The term "pinhead" was originally used to refer to an overweight sailor whose body resembled the round and bulbous head of a belaying pin. It was then generalized to mean any lubberly sailor, as inexperienced sailors were much more likely to have soft, round bodies common among folks who were not used to physical labor. Finally, usage shifted to mean anyone who obviously did not understand what they were doing (as land-lubbers would not understand their jobs when first brought onto a ship by the press-gang).
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:09   #5
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Same connotation whether on a boat or not

https://www.etymonline.com/word/pinhead
...Meaning "person of little intelligence" (and/or a small head) is by 1896.

Also see microcephaly (small head) often confused with microencephaly (small brain).
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:19   #6
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Pinhead is nowadays used to describe conventional Marconi mainsails, as compared to the modern "flat top" mains much admired by racers. Seems especially prevalent amongst multihullers...

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Old 26-02-2021, 15:20   #7
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JebLostInSpace View Post
Calling someone a "pinhead" is a reference to the belaying pins ubiquitous on ships during the age of sail. The head of these pins are round and bulbous, which helps to keep lines that are secured on the pins from sliding upward and coming loose. The term "pinhead" was originally used to refer to an overweight sailor whose body resembled the round and bulbous head of a belaying pin. It was then generalized to mean any lubberly sailor, as inexperienced sailors were much more likely to have soft, round bodies common among folks who were not used to physical labor. Finally, usage shifted to mean anyone who obviously did not understand what they were doing (as land-lubbers would not understand their jobs when first brought onto a ship by the press-gang).

Yet another derivation courtesy of CANOE
(Committee to Ascribe a Nautical Origin to Everything)
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:31   #8
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Quote:
Originally Posted by StuM View Post
Same connotation whether on a boat or not

https://www.etymonline.com/word/pinhead
...Meaning "person of little intelligence" (and/or a small head) is by 1896.

Also see microcephaly (small head) often confused with microencephaly (small brain).
That's the way I heard it. Pinheads were carnival freaks in the 1930's, suffering from microencephaly often due to in utero malnutrition. Somewhat common in the Depression era. Their small brains caused their skulls to actually be pointed along with mental deficiency.
That's not the only term we got from the carnivals. A "Geek" was not a tech fan, was a freak that bit the heads off chickens. Entertainment was weird back then.
Wait a minute, entertainment's weird now too, just in a different way.
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Old 26-02-2021, 15:40   #9
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Example reference:
https://www.saphire.swiss/blog/2018/...nhead-mainsail
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Old 26-02-2021, 16:14   #10
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Quote:
Originally Posted by StuM View Post
Yet another derivation courtesy of CANOE
(Committee to Ascribe a Nautical Origin to Everything)
I had not heard that one before, but I love it!

How does one... apply to be a member of this committee?
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Old 26-02-2021, 16:37   #11
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Pinhead is nowadays used to describe conventional Marconi mainsails, as compared to the modern "flat top" mains much admired by racers. Seems especially prevalent amongst multihullers...

Jim
Thank you for explaining this! I'd always wondered every time I hear this term used in nautical talk.

(And this would always pop into my head: )


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Old 27-02-2021, 09:46   #12
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmzngGrace View Post
Somebody who’s been on the water for quite a bit says that the word “pinhead” is used for a particular type of person on a boat. Anybody heard of this?
I will give it a shot and add.........."pinhead" refers to a very dull or stupid person, fool OR someone that has no clue about boats and boating.
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Old 27-02-2021, 10:16   #13
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

In the Southern California sports fishing community in the 1960's and 1979's, 'pinhead' referred to an undersized anchovy bait fish, and by way of transference, a slang term for a young boy, unpaid but helping out on the boat. With time and experience, the pinhead could hope to be promoted to "master baiter".
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Old 27-02-2021, 10:37   #14
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Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

So much for the "experts" on CF!

Maybe it's because it's a cruisers forum and not a racer's forum that so few people actually knew it referred to the head/top of the mainsail.

It was a pretty common term used amongst us beach cat racers as we moved to square top mains in the 1990's.

I got my first square top main in 2001. It was made of technora

https://bethwaite360.com/square-head-vs-pin-head-rigs/

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermuda_rig
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Old 27-02-2021, 10:38   #15
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pirate Re: Is “pinhead” a sailing term?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sail sfbay View Post
I will give it a shot and add.........."pinhead" refers to a very dull or stupid person, fool OR someone that has no clue about boats and boating.
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