Sea-life inspired sayings commonly used today

Mike Schuler
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November 4, 2010

To mark the Year of the Seafarer, the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society, a UK based charity whose goals is to help seafarers in old age, illness, or adversity, has launched a campaign to honor seafaring generations by capturing old sea-life inspired sayings that are commonly used today without knowledge of there origins.

The campaign is launched in association with the author of naval slang and jargon guide ‘Jackspeak‘, Rick Jolly OBE, a former Royal Navy surgeon-captain, and will be featured in the next edition of his book of modern nautical terms.

The Society is calling on serving and retired members of the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, fishermen and port workers to participate by sending in their sea-life inspired sayings. But why stop there?! We want to hear everyones!

Continue reading for the top 5 favorite phrases coined so far, and be sure to add yours as a comment of participate in the gCaptain forum discussion HERE:

1. The cat’s out of the bag – originates from the instrument of punishment in the Old Navy, the ‘cat o’nine tails’. It would be taken out of its special storage bag before a flogging

2. Brass monkeys – originates from the saying ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’. Freezing temperatures would cause the brass monkey, a plate beside each gun on a ship to hold iron cannon balls, to contract and some of the balls to fall off

3. Batten down – meaning to prepare for trouble or bad weather, originating from ships ‘battening down the hatches’ when bad weather was expected

4. Splice the mainbrace! – the order given on ships for everyone on board to enjoy an additional serving of rum as part of a traditional naval celebration. Nowadays this is used to describe a toast to Royalty

5. Three sheets to the wind – originates from an old description of a square sail flapping almost uncontrollably in the wind; now often used to describe an inebriated person!

We encourage you to submit your own sayings to the gCaptain forum HERE, and be sure to check out the Funny Sh*t My Captain Says for more hilarious albeit probably less widely used sayings.

Find out more at the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society website.

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