2 February 2009

The lore and language of the sea.

A geat deal of the English we unthinkingly use has its origins on the decks of sailing ships. Cock up. Three sheets to the wind (drunk). Not enought room to swing a cat. Between the devil and the deep blue sea. Devil to pay. Gone by the board. Taken aback. Bitter end. Just a few top of my head examples.

This delightful Radio 4 programme by Stephen Fry examines maritime English and metaphor. You have 6 days left to listen, and it will be a well spent 30 minutes of your time.

One contributor laments the increasing 'sea-blindness' and 'sea-deafness' of the British who are, after all, an island race. So here's a gratuitous pic of a square rigger. The eagle eyed among you will notice that her yards are not 'all square', an offence for which a flogging skipper might 'let the cat out of the bag'.


Charles Thrasher said...

It doesn't take an eagle eye to notice there's a bone in her teeth with no sail set, a definite discrepancy in the age of sail.

Peter Mc said...

Mr Thrasher you are absolutely right. Grand Turk has two whacking great diesels in her bowels. Obviously we would have like to have wowed her in, but there was a heaving great tidal set across the harbour mouth that day. Likewise the windlases on the breakwaters that in days gone by would have let us winch a ship in are no longer functional. And the local council, which charged mariners handomely to berth their boats here, deigns to open the swing bridge only at certain times, so to get into he berth Grand Turk had to put the clog down.

Charles Thrasher said...

Peter, thank you for perhaps the most interesting response to a comment I've ever read.