Tuesday, September 29, 2015


29 September 2015: Did you ever wonder where some of the expressions we hear every day originated from? Many were first used in a maritime or nautical context. Yep, on ships by sailors. So even if you hear the expressions something or someone is "A-1" in the flatlands of Kansas USA, it began at sea! Let's face it, friends, most of the settled world got that way from people arriving by ships and from the resultant trade. And the sea breeds special people with their own unique language. So here's a few expressions we've all heard with their original meanings. And yes, we will offer more down the road as there are just too many for one post! So this list is anything but complete, so no nasty notes back complaining we left out one or another; we have left out many!


 "He is a real A-1 fellow! In the late 17th century, Lloyd's of London, the insurance firm, issued A-1 ratings to vessels whose hull and fittings, gear and crew, were of the highest quality. It transferred to the Royal Navy as "first rate" which referred to the largest and most formidable warships.

"There'll be the devil to pay!" The "devil" referred not to the "lord of the underworld," but rather the seam between the board covering the junction of the topmost plank in the ship's side and the outboard plank of the deck. It was really hard to caulk by the crew who used hot pitch poured into the crease to seal it. "Pay" is the old word for caulk. An offshoot of this expression is "between the devil and the deep blue sea." This refers to having to stand on the narrow board, outside the bulwarks which can be somewhat challenging in a sea!

"I turned a Blind eye" to it." Direct from Admiral Lord Nelson, hero of the Royal Navy (today happens to be his birthday, by the way) who was blinded in one eye during a battle.
 He commanded a ship at the Battle of Copenhagen and when a signal went up on the commodore's ship ordering withdrawal, he held his long glass up to his blind eye and commented that he saw no such signal. He then proceeded to continue the attack, carrying the day for the British.

OK - that's it for today..... what? you want one more? OK, here's one I bet you thought was not polite to use in mixed company:

"It's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey!" In the days of cannon and wooden ships, a read supply of shot (iron) was kept by each cannon in a stack. They was set within a brass frame called a monkey to keep them from rolling around the deck in a big sea. IN extremely cold weather, the brass contracted faster than the iron shot, and the cannon balls no longer fit in the monkey. Hence, it was cold enough ... you get the idea. Now no more smirks when you hear this one!

Ok.... gotta go now. We'll do more of these maybe next time. So until then,

                   Fair Winds,
                          Old Salt


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