sailing terms

Did you know how many phrases and words that we use in everyday English have their roots in nautical teminology? Here is a selection of them but if you know of any more, then email

Knows the Ropes - In the very early days, this phrase was written on a seaman's discharge to indicate that he was still a novice. All he knew about being a sailor was just the names and uses of the principal ropes (lines). Today, this same phrase means the opposite that the person fully knows and understands the operation (usually of the organization).

Knot - 1) The term knot, or nautical mile, is used world-wide to denote one's speed through water. Today, we measure knots with electronic devices, but 200 years ago such devices were unknown. Ingenious marines devised a speed measuring device both easy to use and reliable, the "log line." From this method we get the term "Knot." The log line was a length of twine marked at 47.33-foot intervals by colored knots. At one end a log chip was fastened. It was shaped like the sector of a circle and weighted at the rounded end with lead. When thrown over the stern, it would float pointing upward and would remain relatively stationary. The log line was allowed to run free over the side for 28 seconds and then hauled on board. Knots which had passed over the side were counted. In this way, the ships speed was measured. 2) The line tied to a ship's casting log to determine its speed was marked off by knots tied along its length. The length of the knot was derived from the proportion that one hour (3,600 seconds) is to 28 seconds as one nautical mile (6,080 ft.) is to the length of a knot (47 ft. 3 in.). The faster a ship went, the more 'knots' were paid out before a given amount of time.

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