15 December 2005


Landlubbers ... can't live with 'em and wouldn't have anybody to serve you coffee without 'em. But somehow they do pick up sailing jargon at an amazing rate of about 1 phrase per century. And they usually have absolutely no idea that they're singing the song of the sea when they use these terms.

My favorites:
  • not enough room to swing a cat: This one is classic. Landlubbers, in their sadistic haze, think it has to do with the felis catus, or common housecat. Of course not, fools, it's a cat o' nine tails being swing at lazy drunken conscripted crewmembers. A practice that I intend to employ if Polka Dot's race results don't improve dramatically this season.

  • cat's out of the bag: Same thing, landlubbers have this evil idea that housecats are hard to put back in a bag once you take them out. Why the h3ll would you put a cat in a bag in the first place? What is wrong with these people?

  • full nine yards: This one is usually associated with football. Umm, you need ten yards for a first down in football people. What got me thinking about this post was a football player saying they're going for the full nine yards. You'd think he'd know, but maybe he went to UM or something. In reality, this one comes from a three masted schooner, each mast has three booms (or yard arms); when you're really you've set the full nine yards (meaning all your sail).

  • show your true colors: Most people think that Cyndi Lauper came up with this one, and despite her musical and fashion brilliance, I have to disagree. Most navies would carry a full complement of flags on board to trick the enemy. You'd have an English ship of the line approaching French waters flying a, umm, let's say Djibouti flag (colors). The French would say, "oh how cute, a Djiboutian warship is lining up broadside to us", then, boom, the Djibouti colors are dropped and the true colors are flown and BOOM, the guns go off. This is still employed today in some gang circles...a guy will walk into a neighborhood wearing a green shirt and bandana, then switch to yellow before robbing a liquor store.

  • shiver me timbers: Nobody really uses this one, but it is fun to say. Aaaarrgggh.

    Anonymous said...

    I'd like to see your source for
    the full 9 yards. Many ships had
    as many as 15 or 18 yards! I certainly agree with the others, though.

    Carol Anne said...

    I had always heard the full 9 yards was 9 yards of concrete in a standard cement mixer truck.

    But, yes, all of the others work. There's also "three sheets to the wind," which so many people think refers to bedding.

    Anonymous said...

    Shiver me timbers. Aaaarrgggh.
    Mind you, when I first joined the Navy we would run around saying "Aaaarrgggh" quite a bit.