Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Groggy

The word "groggy" was not going to be today's post when I was lining things up yesterday, believe me. Sometimes serendipity plays a part in all things though, Brethren, and this is one of those times.

The First Mate and I stayed up a little too late last night and had a few too many. No reason to lie about it. When we finally rolled out of bed my husband, as he's pulling on his socks, lets go a little groan. The following conversation ensues:

Him: Groggy.

Me: You are?

Him: Yeah. Too much last night.

Me: A sailor who drank too much grog, was groggy.

Him: There's your post for today.

And so it is. Obviously the word "groggy", meaning cotton-headed, shaky or dizzy comes to us from sailors. In all honesty that was the word to describe being hung-over after too much grog. But what is grog, really, and why does it have that funny name? Thanks for asking.

In 1687 England "conquered" Jamaica and the sugar cane plantations thereon became the property of the King. One by-product of making cane into sugar is molasses and fermented molasses becomes rum which, as we discussed on Thursday, can stand in barrels just about forever without going bad or losing its punch. Rather quickly, the brandy given to average seamen in the Royal Navy was replace by rum.

As we all know (or at least those of us who have sampled the stuff) rum packs a kick and I'm told it was even stronger stuff back in the 17th and 18th century than it is now. I shudder to think. At any rate, one can imagine the seamen abusing their alcohol privileges and nothing useful getting done aboard ship. This situation was remedied to some degree in 1740 by Admiral Vernon who mandated that the rum ration be diluted with water. Vernon was known by the the foremast Jacks as "Old Grogram" because he wore an unusual coat or cloak made from the material. Grogram was, according to Websters, "a coarse fabric made of silk, or of silk, worsted and mohair". Because of the now very unpopular Admiral's funky coat, the beverage he imposed upon the sailors became known as "grog".

A "grog ration" was given to each man and boy aboard a Royal Navy ship (and later American Navy ships as well) twice a day, at noon and 6:00 PM. A ration was one pint per man or a half pint for a boy with one quart of water added per pint. By the 19th century, lime juice was added to grog in the Royal Navy (thus an English sailor was a "limey") while, interestingly, the American Navy favored cranberry juice. This was the standard but some ship's Captains watered the rum more heavily, either to save on alcohol costs or stave off drunkenness, and sailors came up with names for this sort of finagling. "Half and half grog" was the term for equal parts rum and water. "Seven water grog" was the sarcastic moniker applied to any beverage with more water than rum.

Despite orders and standards, sailors were notorious for swapping their grog ration for favors or other items like food or clothing. One sailor might have two or three times his ration on any given day and the outcome, of course, would be a decidedly groggy sailor. This especially since a healthy sailor could sleep a maximum of only four hours at a stretch. That makes me groggy just thinking about it.

I will see you in the week ahead, Brethren. Watch your grog ration, and save some for next Saturday: International Talk Like a Pirate Day!


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Thanks for the props, I think? Glad I could provide some fodder for the blog, although I was not so glad this morning, as you noted. Feeling much better now though... I guess it's time to start drinkin' again!

Pauline said...

Ahoy Timmy! Well, we've all been there, haven't we?

WasABuc said...

Freakin' hilarious!!


Been there, done that.

More power to the GROG!!

Pauline said...

Ahoy WasABuc! True story!