Ahoy, Brethren! First of all, forgive me for my tardiness on the post. It has been a long but extremely fruitful day and, though just this side of exhausted, I am feeling rather fulfilled. So here, a word for our usual Saturday shindig to match my mood: jolly.
The word, of course, means happy but back in the early 19th century and before "jolly" was an adjective applied to attractive, rotund people. Jack Aubrey would surely have been described in middle age as jolly. Your humble hostess has another word for sailors of similar fairness but I won't be using it here. Nautically speaking, however, jolly found more than one niche.
A jolly boat was a craft smaller than a cutter but built by the same design. Averaging four feet in the beam and twelve feet in length she was easy to carry aboard ship and good for hard work, like washing, scraping and painting in blue water.
Jolly jumpers is another name for cloud scrapers; sails set above the moon-rakers, so high it would take a right seaman to reef and let out their kind.
The word also described men and by the 18th century was the usual term among Royal Navy sailors for soldiers. A tame jolly was a militiaman. A royal jolly was a marine. One wonders how the marines felt about this application.
Finally, or should I say last but not least, there is the Jolly Roger. That ubiquitous pirate flag that so many pirates never flew. The story goes that the name is a corruption of the French jolie rouge which literally translates as "pretty red" and referred to the red flag flown aboard ships infected with plague or other contagions. The French are subtle like that. Whether or not the theory is true has yet to be proven but, being French, I stick with it for purely poetic reason.
Happy Saturday, mates. Tomorrow, a special Mothers' Day addition of Seafaring Sunday for all my U.S. sisters celebrating our designated day.