Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: All

Today's word is one that most of us use without thinking about it, particularly in reckless clichés such as “all or nothing” and “it’s all about me”. At sea, all tends to have a similar, bigger than life tone of urgency and sometimes even foreboding.

First and foremost, all signifies everything; the total quantity. All hands indicates a ship’s company in its entirety. All weathers means any time of year or any sort of weather.

All is frequently used in calls and commands such as “all hands make sail!” The modern call for all hands on deck was phrased all hands ahoy until the first quarter of the 19th century and would have been accompanied by the call of the bosun’s whistle. All hands to quarters was the merchant ship equivalent of the warship’s order to beat to quarters.

All’s well is the call of the night watches. It was heard every half hour at the striking of the bell between the hours of 8:00 in the evening and 4:00 in the morning. The exception would be in cases where all was indeed not well and then a call to quarters or for all hands on deck would likely replace it. All ready is the standard answer from the tops when the sails are ready to be unfurled. All aback indicated a ship’s sails had been taken aback – pushed on from the fore rather than the aft – by the wind. As an aside this situation, which can be hazardous, is the source of our modern phrase taken aback meaning surprised, stunned or, in a more archaic form, found out.

A ship is all standing when she is fit to set sail. A seaman was all standing when he was fully clothed. Sometimes this phrase also indicated being fully armed. A ship is brought up all standing when she is stopped suddenly, as when striking an object, a reef or another ship. She is said to be paid off all standing when her crew receives payment and/or prize money in port without putting in for repairs or shore leave. In such cases, which were considered cruel by the foremast jacks, the ship would turn right around and put out to sea once again.

All to pieces was once sailor speak for excessively as in “Jack has been drinking all to pieces.” All ahoo is what Jack would be the next day: hung over. All ahoo could also mean that things were all mixed up, at sixes and sevens, confusing. Something was said to be good at all points when it was exceedingly practical. All over meant something or someone had a particular look about it; “She’s a pirate all over, sure.” All overish, on the other hand, meant one was feeling slightly out of sorts; not quite sick but not well either. Being all overish in the tropics was a sure sign to British seamen that they had better head to the sick berth straight away. Till all’s blue indicated something carried to its utmost and came from the experience of a vessel reaching blue water out of sight of land.

All a taunt-o is probably my favorite of the marine-isms using the word all. It meant a ship fully rigged and ready not just to sail but to look good doing so.

Happy Saturday, Brethren. I wish you a ship all a taunt-o as mine is sadly – but quite purposefully – all ahoo right now.

Header: Clipper Ship Blue Jacket on Choppy Seas by Montague Dawson


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! I may be all overish when I'm at sea and our ship may be all ahoo, but at least our downstairs is back in ship shape, finally...

Pauline said...

Good thing we tend to go with the tide; makes all this uproar a little easier.