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Every Wondered Where Our Expressions Come From?


Image: Shipping Wonders Of The Sea


Ever used these sayings before?

  • I know the ropes.

  • Would you pipe down?

  • I'm chock-a-block.

  • There's no room to swing a cat.

  • He got a right dressing down.

  • I'm footloose.

  • That's first rate

  • He's three sheets to the wind.

  • I'm feeling blue.

  • He looks like he's about to keel over.

  • I'm giving them a wide berth.

  • I cannot fathom that.

  • He's between the devil and the deep blue sea.

  • He turned a blind eye.

  • There will be the devil to pay.

These sayings originated at sea. See below for their meanings. To Know the Ropes:  There are miles of rope in square-rigged ships and the only way they kept track of them all was to memorize where they were located. Only experienced seaman knew the ropes. Pipe Down  The Bosun's whistle was blown to signal that all lights were to be put out and silence was ordered. This was called the Pipe Down.  Chock-a-block  When two blocks of rigging tackle were hard together and they couldn't be tightened further, they were said to be Chock-a-Block, meaning they were filled to capacity or overloaded.  No Room to Swing a Cat The cat was the whip called the cat-o-nine-tails. The entire ship's crew was required to witness floggings at close hand. If the ship was crowded the Boatswain struggled to have enough room to swing the cat.  Dressing Down Sails were treated with oil or wax to protect the canvas. This process was called giving them a dressing down. An officer or sailor who was reprimanded or scolded received a dressing down.  Footloose  The bottom portion of a sail is called the foot. If it wasn't secured correctly, it was footloose and danced randomly about in the wind.   First Rate  From the sixteenth century, British naval ships were rated by their number of heavy cannons carried on board. A ship with more than 100 guns was First Rate.   Three Sheets to the Wind  Sheets are lines or ropes that control the tension of the corners on a square sail. On a three-masted barque like the Ashmore, if the three sheets of the lower course sails were loose, the sails flapped and fluttered in the wind. The ship would then stagger and wander aimlessly downwind, much like the drunken sailors.  Feeling blue  During a voyage, if the captain died, they would return to port with a blue stripe painted on the ship's hull and a blue flag raised. Keel Over  A sailor's term for death, or to capsize the ship.  Slush Fund  A slurry of fat kept from boiling the salted meat was sold ashore by the cook and kept in the slush fund. Many cooks were caught selling more than just slush on the quiet. The money was supposed to go towards a fund for the sailor's to buy luxuries like drinks.  Under the Weather  If a crewman who was standing watch was subject to constant beatings from the weather and sea spray, it was called the weather side of the bow, which meant he was under the weather.  To Give Someone a Wide Berth Ships moved with the tides when anchored. So they needed to drop their anchors far enough away from other vessels so they didn't smash into each other as the tides and winds changed. Fathom A fathom is a nautical measure equal to six feet. It is a depth measurement used at sea. The word is also used to describe taking the measure of something, to understand it, to get to the bottom of it. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea  The curved seam in the deck planking closest to the side of the ship was called the devil's seam. It was next to the scupper gutters which were slots that let out the water washing over the deck. When sailors were ordered over the side in a boatswain's chair to clean or paint the hull, it was said he was between the devil and the deep blue sea. Turn A Blind Eye To turn a blind eye means to intentionally ignore someone or a situation. Back in 1801, Admiral Nelson deliberately held the telescope to his blind eye in order not to see the flag signal from the commander to stop the bombardment. That is how he won the Battle of Copenhagen. The Devil to Pay To pay means to seal. The devil was the most difficult seam on the deck because it was curved and intersected with planks that were straight. Because it was such an unpleasant task, and the most difficult, it was sometimes used as a mild form of punishment. Thanks for reading and watching my BLINK. Please feel free to leave a comment.

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