"OCEAN PLANET" NAUTICAL SAYINGS
The sea has contributed countless words, expressions and concepts
to mainstream English. We
seldom reflect upon their oceangoing origin when we use such
expressions as: all in the same
boat, blow over, crabby, don't give up the ship, down the hatch,
getting the drift, happy as a
clam, keel over, like a fish out of water, making headway, navy
blue, small fry, the coast is
clear, go off the deep end, take the wind out of his sails, or
wide berth. Other expressions with
less obvious nautical roots include:
These nautical sayings come from the Smithsonian Institution's Ocean Planet
exhibition and from the book Ocean Planet: Writings and Images of the Sea, by Peter Benchley and Judith
Gradwohl (published by Harry N. Abrams Inc., 100 5th Ave., New
York, N.Y. 10011)
- Groggy comes from "grog," the name sailors in the British
Royal Navy disdainfully used for their daily ration of a
half-pint of rum, after it was decreed in 1740 that the rum
should be diluted with an equal amount of water. The
unpopular order was issued by Vice Admiral Sir Edward Vernon,
nicknamed "Old Grog" because of the impressive grogam cloak
he wore on deck.
- Horse Latitudes refer to the regions of calm found at
latitudes 30 degrees N. to 30 degrees S. It is said that
sailing ships carrying horses to America, when becalmed in
these latitudes, had to throw horses overboard in order to
lighten their vessels and take advantage of any gentle
breezes that might blow their way.
- Overwhelm comes from the Middle English word meaning "to
- Pooped out originally described the condition of seamen
caught on the poop or aft deck after a wave from heavy seas
crashed down upon it.
- Rummage sale stems from the French word arrimage, meaning
"the loading of a cargo ship." Damaged cargo was
occasionally sold at special warehouse sales.
- Skyscraper traditionally referred to the topsail of a ship
and only more recently has come to mean a tall building.
- Slush funds were once the personal funds of ship cooks, who
earned them by skimming off the fat, or "slush," from cooking
and selling it when the ship came into port.
- Stranded vessels were ones that had drifted or run aground on
a strand or beach.
Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan
gene carl feldman (email@example.com) (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)