Here is a potpourri of hopefully interesting items. Pieces about the Navy, sailors’ yarns being the stories and experiences they would chat about with their shipmates, of titbits picked up here and there, anecdotal “stuff”, other things noted seen or read.
This page should always be regarded as “work in progress”.
SEAMEN'S PHRASES & NAVAL LANGUAGE:
The English language has over centuries become littered with seamen's and naval words and phrases which are now in common usage with the average user having no idea as to their origin. Here are just a few examples:
➢ “A square meal” – Sailors in the days of sail in Nelson’s navy, each had their own individual
“platter”, it being a square piece of wood on which to have their meals.
➢ "Bosn's Locker" - broom closet
➢ "Brow" - Entrance to the ship
➢ "Buffer" or "The Buffer" - Chief Boatswain (pronounced "Bosun")
➢ "Bulkhead" - Wall
➢ “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” or “It’s brass monkey weather” -
Cannonballs used to be stored aboard warships in piles, on a brass frame or tray called a
"monkey". In very cold weather the brass would contract, spilling the cannonballs: hence very
cold weather is "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".
➢ "Crusher" - Regulating Petty Officer (A ship's policeman)
➢ "CO's Cabin" - Commanding Officer's cabin
➢ "Davy Jones' locker" - Sea bed
➢ "Deck" - Floor
➢ "Deck-head" - Ceiling
➢ "Duff" - Dessert
➢ "Galley" - Kitchen
➢ "Gash" - Garbage
➢ "Hatch" - Door in the deck
➢ "Jimmy" or "Number One" - Ship's Executive Officer
➢ "Kye" - Hot chocolate
➢ "Navy Gravy" - Ketchup
➢ "Porthole" - Window
➢ "Scrambled eggs" - The gold oak leaves on a senior officers cap.
➢ "Scran" - Food
➢ “Shove off” - to push away from.
➢ "Stand easy" - take a break
➢ "Stores" - Supplies
For a much more extensive listing I suggest you go to the following site dedicated to such words and phrases:
ROYAL NAVY SIGNALS
Probably the best known signal ever made in the Royal Navy was that made by Admiral Lord Nelson to his fleet at the commencement of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, it was “England expects that every man will do his duty” (Ibid – Bibliography “Trafalgar, The Men, The Battle, The Storm”, P149). They did and the combined French and Spanish fleets were strategically annihilated.
The Royal Navy of the Napoleonic era served under the most draconian discipline legislation to the inclusion of extremely barbaric sentences of physical punishment that one could imagine; a ship’s Captain literally held the sentence of death in his hands in dispensing justice to his crew as he thought fit.
If one were to allow a humourist a rewrite of that signal under today’s liberal social attitudes compounded by Health & Safety at Work legislation and anti-discrimination statutes, then add some imaginative licence the resulting scenario would be at the very least surprising. Read on:-
Last update Jan 5, 2018