Ships brought us new English words!
Learn advanced English with The English Nut. He teaches and entertains you! Find out how ships and sailing gave us so many English words!
In this and other videos, The English Nut explores fascinating facts about English, including the origin of English words in India and elsewhere, provides useful tips on English usage and, in a lighthearted manner, corrects typical Indian English mistakes. Watch the videos for entertainment–and you might just learn a thing or two as well. 🙂
Video #30 TRANSCRIPT
Episode Title: Get your English in shipshape.
Ships played a key role in shaping our world—until airplanes and other vehicles of travel and transport took over in the mid 20th century. But so profound was the impact of the sailing era that to this day, whether we send things via airplanes, trucks or trains, we say we are shipping the items.
Like ‘taken aback’. Ships were taken aback when their sails were blown back against the masts by the wind.
By and large is another such phrase. By means into the wind, while large means with the wind. So “by and large” is used to indicate all or most situations.
Above board. On or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding anything. Pirates would hide their crews below decks, to lull ships they were about to attack into a false sense of security.
As the crow flies means a direct line between two points (which might cross land). That is the way crows travel rather than ships, which must go around land.
Barge in. This phrase comes from the awkward steering of river barges – they often banged into other boats and things. To barge in came into the language in the early 1900s.
Bombay runner was the nickname for a large cockroach. Wonder why!
A cabin is a room on a ship. Or in your office. Unless you work in one of those terribly modern open offices.
We’re chock-a-block today. Can’t give you an appointment. This comes from rigging blocks on a ship that are so tight against one another that they cannot be further tightened.
A clean bill of health is a certificate issued by a port indicating that the ship carries no infectious diseases.
Clean slate—at the helm, the watch keeper would record details of speed, distances, etc. on a slate. At the beginning of a new watch the slate would be wiped clean.
The Course is the direction in which a vessel is being steered,
Footloose—if the foot or lower edge of a sail is not secured properly, it is footloose, blowing around in the wind. Footloose and fancy free!
Groggy. It means dazed, weak, or unsteady, sometimes from being drunk. The word is derived from Old Grog, nickname of Admiral Edward Vernon, who in the 18th century ordered diluted rum to be served to his sailors. The drink was named Grog after him.
Don’t you hate it when someone’s leagues ahead of you? Well, at least that person doesn’t know that a League means three nautical miles. But you do.
Leeway refers to the amount of freedom you have to do something. In nautical terminology, leeway is the sideways drift of a ship to leeward or away from the wind.
Loose cannon. A reckless person whose uncontrolled behaviour endangers others. This comes from, well, a loose cannon, weighing thousands of kilos, which would crush anything and anyone in its way, and possibly even sink the ship.
Give me a landmark so I can find your place. Well this comes from a recognisably distinct object on shore that is visible from sea and used to find your position.
Making money hand over fist means to make a lot of money very quickly. This relates to climbing a rope hand over hand.
Overwhelm meant “to submerge completely” in the mid-15th century. Just think of a giant wave washing over your boat. Not nice, right? Sometimes life makes you feel that way, unfortunately. Overwhelmed.
The owners of that company are such bad paymasters, we say. The Paymaster was originally the man in charge of paying salaries on a ship.
A Square meal is a sufficient quantity of food. This phrase probably comes from meals that were served to the crew on a square wooden plate in harbour or at sea in good weather. These meals were substantial.
Under the weather If you served a watch on the weather side of the ship, which is the side exposed to wind and spray, you didn’t feel too well by the end of your shift. You felt ‘under the weather’.
I’m The English Nut. Bye for now.
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