Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Haze

Here's a funny thing. As the Brethren know, I rarely plan further ahead than a few hours for SMS. I usually pick a word randomly and do my research from there because I have the great good fortune to be possessed of a tremendous library fairly bursting with nautically themed books. But for today I actually had some time early on, Thursday to be precise, and I got SMS all set up. So what to my wondering eyes should appear but this delightful and in depth post from The Dear Knows over at that Triple P favorite, The Dear Surprise. As you can see it’s all about commonly used words and phrases with seafaring origins and there in the “H” section is today’s word: Haze. You cannot make this stuff up.

Webster’s literally states that the word haze came to English from Low German and Anglo-Saxon as a “… nautical borrowing”. The etymology here is interesting. Webster argues that haze may have come from Anglo-Saxon hasu, meaning gray, but “… probably via the Low German proverb de hase brouet literally “the hare is brewing” as applied to a mist”. Now that’s interesting and, for those old enough to remember, has a “bunny boiler” connotation that certain women will doubtless find an affinity with.

So haze can mean a thin layer of mist in the air or a “vagueness of mind” alternatively. But specific to nautical usage, haze means “to oppress, punish or harass by forcing to do hard and unnecessary work”. As noted over at The Dear Surprise, this form of hazing frequently included keeping men not only working but awake watch after watch with only a very minimal amount of sleep allowed.

The deprivation of sleep is, of course, an ancient torture used to this day and the logic behind its use at sea was to break sturdy men and – in particular – make them incapable of mutiny. Unfortunately it proved on more than one occasion to have just the opposite effect. The infamous Captain Bligh, who is all too often apologized for in modern writing, was fond of hazing new men at all levels of service. Hugh Pigot, the brutal Captain of the Hermione, used hazing as well and the horrible mutiny aboard his ship, which included his own bloody death, was the result.

Modern hazings, particularly popular among the educated elite who join “Greek” houses on larger college campuses, can be just as brutal as those of our nautical ancestors and can have equally tragic results. It is all too clear to my mind that our society is falling into disrepair at best when the same colleges feel compelled to offer their “adult” students empathy training to avoid such unnecessary misery. It might be time for modern parents to step up and stop making excuses for their miserable, self-centered, blog post plagiarizing br –

[Ed note: the rant above has been cut short in the interest of time, space and staying on topic.]

Anyway, to end on a humorous note, 19th century sailors began referring to the marriage of one of their own as a hazing. The inference being, of course, that the new wife would doubtless put her husband to a hard task, and keep him up all night. No further comment seems necessary.

Header: The Sailor’s Wedding by Richard Woodville 1852 (click to enlarge as the painting is full of amusing details; I’m particularly fond of the sailor, who looks very much like my Dad)


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Somehow I doubt that anyone was complaining about that last sort of hazing... or that it resulted in any mutinies, Pirate Queen.

I'm just saying.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Famously, let us just say: "That is enough for one night, woman! A man needs to rest."

Seriously; he does.