Lexiconvergence #2

Today’s topic is boats. Why? Because it’s a wonderful day outside and I can’t go for a run because of this darn cold, which means no jogging by the yacht club, which means NO BOATS! NO BOATS??? That’s right self, it’s a sad day indeed.

I worried I'd dream about this sad clown. She ...

In case you weren't sad, I had to make sure you had some negative emotion--in this case, frightened.

To help ease my pain and yours (if you have any), here’s some boat-based idioms and what they really mean.

1- Shiver me timbers— Likely you all know this from the wonderful world of pirates and–truth be told–that’s enough to make it great. But breaking this down makes it clear that this is nothing more than babble without meaning. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising though, being born of pirates.


Not Pictured: An Education

Well it turns out those pirates really were smarter than all of us out here, because they were using the true meaning of shiver which means “to break” according to phrases.org.uk. Ergo, a pirate–travelling on a boat of wood–would be likely irked by his timber splitting. Oh, and pirates may have never said it at all–it might just be something authors made up to make word counts.

2-Cut of your job– If you’re well dressed and trying to sound like an old-timey dandy, you might use the exact sentence I just wrote, but through in the phrase “cut of my jib.” It has to do wit ha person’s demeanor and dress and it turns out it also has to do with boats!

See, back in the day people didn’t share ideas all that much. As a direct result, countries produced different boats, like Fluyts from the Netherlands, Sloops that were actually very homogenous and a bad example for this sentence, and junks, which are poorly name East Asian Boats.

English: Showing the litter problem on the coa...

The sad future of all... well, junks.

The way those sails came together resulted in something sailors called a jib. And sailors, being a very gentlemanly and kind, clean group of people, opted to refer to ladyfolk by the “cut of their jib” is an attempt to ascertain which fine woman they should woo with high romance. (Translation: which hooker they should buy)

3- By and large– If you’re me, or like me, you probably didn’t know this idiom had a nautical background at all! …Now you do!

Generally used to mean things like “generally,” the phrase “by and large” by and large concerns boats. Our good friend phrases.org.uk helped out here once more. It seems large doesn’t mean the same thing in your lingo as it does in old-timey sailor lingo, unless you are referring to a bear that is travelling on the wind when you speak of a large grizzly. In the same way, you probably didn’t know that Chris Farley only lived in a van in the direction of the river when he lived “by the river.” See, ‘by and large’ means to sail in the direction of the wind.

As to how that turned into “generally,” your guess is as good as mine. Supposedly it refers to people trying not to approach a topic directly, instead option to head by and large, just around the headwind.

And that does it for this installation of Lexiconvergence. Check in next week for new stuff!

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