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 nterms@sloopit.co.uk.

Room to swing a cat - This colorful phrase evokes strange images of feline cruelty. In fact it has nothing to do with cats, but the real story is at least as cruel. The "cat" is a cat-of-nine-tails, a type of whip used to discipline sailors on old sailing ships. The cat-of-nine-tails has one handle to which is attached nine thin strips of leather, each perhaps three feet long. The cat-of-nine-tails would be used to administer lashings that would sting and leave welts on the recipient. The whippings would take place on the deck, because below deck there was not enough ceiling height to swing a cat-of-nine-tails.

Round robin - "Round robin" originated in the British nautical tradition. Sailors wishing to mutiny would sign their names in a circle so the leader could not be identified.

Rummage Sale - From the French "arrimage" meaning ship's cargo. Damaged cargo was sold at a rummage sale

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