Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Over

All English speakers know it ain’t over till it’s over. Be that as it may, there’s a lot to talk over aboard ship.

Most everyone is familiar with certain seafaring words that include over. Overboard is self-explanatory, as is overtake and overlap. The last at sea usually applies to shipbuilding, and how the hatches are fastened in relation to the decking planks.

Over is often used in relation to rigging. An overhand knot is used on same in some cases, with the end of the rope passed over the rope and then through the opening thus created. The opening, by the way, is known as a bite at sea. Over and under turns are references to the passing of earings, small ropes used to attaching the upper corners of sails to their yards.

A ship is said to over-press when she is carrying too much sail and to be over-rigged when she is weighed down with too much heavy gear. Similarly, a ship can be over-masted. In such case her masts are too tall in proportion to the body of the vessel. This will make her susceptible to over-setting, or turning off on her side in danger of capsizing. Such perilous occurrence is now referred to as upsetting which is, perhaps, an understatement.

A ship that is over-gunned has too much weight of metal aboard. Stowage of too many guns can be tricky as the running of the ship will certainly suffer, and she may have a tendency to hog. A ship is said to be over-boyed when the captain and most of his officers are comparatively young.

If one’s ship is opposite another it was said to be over-anent its partner. A ship might overbear another if she is carrying more sail in a following sea. To overshoot would be to give a ship too much way. On the other hand, in a chase one might overhaul the enemy, first catching up to her and demanding she heave to, then boarding to examine her as a possible prize.

Companies that first insured merchant vessels in the late 18th and early 19th century were also the first to apply over-insurance. Known as reinsurance today, this is essentially an insurance company taking out insurance from another company on the risk they insure. Wrap your head around that twice, because it happens more frequently than you might imagine. Thanks, Lloyd’s of London.

An overfall is the historical word for what we now call a riptide. The overloft is an Elizabethan term for the top deck of a ship. A vessel is said to be over-risen when she is too high out of the water, making her susceptible to foundering in heavy weather. This situation was for all intents and purposes permanently corrected by American shipbuilders after the Revolution.

An officer was said to be overslaughed (pronounced “overslagged”) when he was passed over for promotion. Finally, our far-reaching word overwhelm comes from the language of the sea as well. The “whelm” portion was originally wylm, and Anglo-Saxon word meaning wave. To be overwhelmed was to be scuttled by high waves breaking over a ship’s deck.

Header: Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor by Claude Monet


Timmy! said...

Ahoy Pauline! Reinsurance, I know about (only too well, unfortunately). Most of the rest, I didn't... Interesting post and a pretty painting too.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Even reinsurance came from the brine and wind. It's funny how much we deal with daily that did. Thank you, seafaring ancestors.