The word draught (or draft) is common enough. In modern English we speak of drafting a speech, draft horses and beer “on draft”. No one thinks very much of where the word came from. I’m sure I needn’t even trouble myself to tell you, Brethren. It came from the sea.
The word’s origin is probably from Anglo-Saxon by way of Middle English. It was originally dragan, meaning to draw as in drag or pull. Think of a horse or ox with a plow. This became the Middle English draht (pronounced without the f) which essentially meant the same thing. Slowly the “draw” in the meaning came to mean not only tug along but sketch and that led to the current understanding of draught or draft to mean an design or layout.
That final addition to the meaning of draught probably came from seafaring. Originally, draught when referring to a ship meant the amount of water needed to keep her afloat. One hears of a ship’s draft being five feet for a small sloop or pirogue, or something more like fifteen to twenty feet for a man-of-war. Frequently the displacement line was marked, often by white paint, at the stem and stern. A ship is therefore said to “draw” the number of feet of water she displaces when afloat.
Probably because of the use of the word draw, draught came to mean first a chart for navigation and then the on paper delineation of a ship’s design. The term sheer-draft essentially refers to what architects by land would call and elevation. The picture above, from the plans for Nelson’s HMS Victory via liverpoolmuseum.com, are a good example of a sheer-draught.
There are also draught hooks, which are fastened to a gun to drag it along by – what else – draught ropes. And, of course, a draughtsman is the artist who actually sets down plans or charts on paper for future use.
My apologies to one and all for the egregious lateness of this post. My Internet provider *GCI based in Anchorage, Alaska* doesn’t seem to feel that the money I pay them on a timely basis each month means I should have reliable service. So, after a full day without (and a good deal of fiddling with boxes and splitters) I am finally posting. I’ve yet to miss an SMS, and I’m not about to start now.
Good night, Brethren. Tomorrow we begin Horror on the High Seas Week!