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Quirky Sea Terms used in every day conversations

strawbrmstrawbrm Posts: 1
edited July 9 in Introduce Yourself

Hello everyone,

Recently during our daily recruitment meetings, our team began having a few minutes of "Teaching Tuesdays" a way to share forward interesting knowledge gained from personal growth or experience or random "wow what a moment I need to share". So after I shared these tidbits of interesting trivia I picked over the last 20+ years in the maritime industry, the team suggested I write a blog to share what I shared with the team here on MyMercy. I hope to see if more of you find it interesting and also to see if any of you could contribute for fun.

So here it is a few quirky or interesting words or phrases commonly used today that were derived from seafarers and maritime events etc.....hope you enjoy and would love to hear of any the MyMercy followers have to offer......

Earrings: this was the name of a small line or rope on a ship with sails to fasten the "ears" or corners of the sail to the yard arm (or Spar).as time passed the line or loop was mimicked by creating the metal or string loop in a sailors ear to signify he was in charge of the bending of the sail to the spar. through the ages it became fashionable to signify passing of one of the 5 major capes and more significant passages.

Ear-piercing:Sailors believed that by piercing one ear, you improved the sight in the opposite eye. in later times earrings were worn to show they have crossed a significant nautical mile stone such as the International date line or Cape Horn or crossed the equator. so when you see a story of pirates and see many piercing now you know he must be a well traveled pirate (or sailor).

Mind your P's & Q''s: in the pubs of London filled with ship owners and ship insurers (around the time of the East India Shipping Company) and other seaport areas across the UK Scotland, Ireland...the Bar keep would come but to replenish the drinks and say mind your P's & Q's" to have the gents lift their Pints and Quarts of ale in order to wipe the tables clean...this became common phrase to remind children and husbands to mind their manners and not be messy.

Faking or Fake: a complete turning or change in course of the ship in an attempt to evade followers.

Faux Paus: you may think this a french term, actually it is an old Whaler term originally spelled "Foo Paw", and as the word traveled the french spelling became the norm. it was from whalers when they error or bungled the harpooning during the hunt to kill whales for food and commerce. today its referenced as "a blunder" or "tactless act"

Farmer: typically the first sailors were in fact farmers forced to go on ships, due to his inability to perform well in old days as they were terrified of the ocean, they were referred to as being a farmer at sea, hence to this day a bad sailor is called a farmer.

Cup of Joe, a simple cup of Coffee: Why do they call it a cup of Joe?.....It's an American Navy Thing!! Josephus Daniels (18 May 1862-15 January 1948) was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. As the story goes, on June 1, 1914, Secretary "Joe" issued General Order 99. ... From then on, the strongest drink of any kind allowed on naval ships has been coffee. The presumably disgruntled and sober sailors weren't happy with the changes, so they started to call coffee a “cup of Joe” out of spite.

Big Wigs: a term used in reference to the shipping companies executives, the higher the rank the bigger the Wig worn, so in modern days we refer to top executives as "Big Wigs".

Bite the Bullet: during surgeries onboard there was no anesthesia and so before performing an amputation, the "medic" on board or at those times the 3rd Mate would place a bullet or musket ball in the patients mouth to bite on whilst the other crew performed an amputation to save the sailors life. many lost teeth during this process as well.... so now Bite the Bullet is equivalent to "just get on with it, it'll be over quick"

Cranky: Dutch ship the Krengd, was unstable so became synonymous with a sailor or ship or a person being like the Krengd and thus being irritable or somewhat "Cranky"

Overwhelmed: Capsized ship, you never want yourself nor your ship to be overwhelmed right?

I hope you all enjoyed this quirky read through and stayed tuned as I shall add more as the weeks pass...please do share any you know too!!


Miranda Strawbridge

Maritime Recruitment Consultant

Mercy Ships Texas!

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