Tag Archives: nautical
to chop and change

to chop and change

  photograph of William Makepeace Thackeray by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst       MEANING   to change one’s opinions or behaviour repeatedly and abruptly     ORIGIN   In this phrase, to chop originally meant to barter, and to change meant to make an exchange with. In other words, this was an alliterative repetitive expression, […]

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buccaneer

buccaneer

  Insulae Americanae Nempe: Cuba, Hispaniola, Iamaica, Pto Rico, Lucania, Antillae vulgo Caribe, Barlo-et Sotto-Vento Etc. – Reiner & Josua Ottens – Amsterdam – circa 1740 – image: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.     A buccaneer, from French boucanier, was originally one of the French settlers in Hispaniola or Hayti [sic] and Tortugas, […]

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all my eye and Betty Martin

all my eye and Betty Martin

   Agatha Christie (1890-1976)   Surely, my dear, you must have heard the expression meaning that something is not a true picture, or has it quite died out nowadays? ‘All my eye and Betty Martin’. Agatha Christie – Strange Jest (1941)       MEANING AND FIRST OCCURRENCES   This phrase, which, like (all) my […]

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cockpit

cockpit

  THE BOREL HYDROPLANE. One of the first hydro-monoplanes adopted by the Government. Driven by an 80 h.p. Gnome engine mounted in front of the fuselage on double bearings. Floats sprung at the rear on rubber shock absorbers. Chassis built of streamlined steel tubes. Pilot and passenger in separate cockpits arranged tandem fashion. A small […]

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to turn a blind eye

to turn a blind eye

  According to folk etymology, the phrase to turn a blind eye is in allusion to an anecdote about Admiral Horatio Nelson, here portrayed by Lemuel Francis Abbott in 1797 (National Portrait Gallery).       MEANING   to pretend not to notice     FALSE ORIGIN   The phrase is popularly attributed to an […]

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to pull one’s weight

to pull one’s weight

  In The Golden Days, by Hugh R. Riviere (1869-1956) image: Hear The Boat Sing       MEANING   to do one’s fair share of work     ORIGIN   To pull an oar, or simply to pull, is to row. In The Early History of Oxford (1859), the historian John Richard Green (1837-83) […]

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to turn turtle

to turn turtle

      MEANING   (chiefly of a boat): to turn upside down     ORIGIN   Sailors originally invented this phrase when they learnt to overturn the marine tortoise, or turtle, which is suitable for food, in order to immobilise it. The earliest known use of the phrase in this literal sense is in […]

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shiver my timbers!

shiver my timbers!

  photograph: The Sultana Project       In this nautical phrase, timbers designates the pieces of wood composing the ribs, bends, or frames of a ship’s hull, and the verb to shiver means to break or split into small fragments or splinters. (This verb is from a Germanic base meaning to split. The verb […]

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to the bitter end

to the bitter end

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Luiz Carlos       MEANING   The expression to the bitter end is used to indicate that one will continue doing something until it is finished, no matter what.     IMPROBABLE ORIGIN   BITTER End [Sea Term] a Turn of a Cable about the Timbers called Bitts, when the Ship […]

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sea change

sea change

  The Great Wave off Kanagawa (circa 1829-32) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)     A sea change is a profound or notable transformation.   It was originally, in The Tempest (around 1611) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), a change brought about by the action of the sea. In Act 1, scene 2, Ferdinand, the son to […]

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