Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Bob

The shortened version of the name Robert gets quite a workout on the water. First off, though, Webster tells us that the word entered the modern vernacular either through the Old French bober, meaning to mock or the Middle English bobbe meaning a cluster, or both. The latter is most closely aligned with one of the 17th century meanings of bob: a cluster of worms attached to a string used for fishing. Through this we have the later meaning which indicates a fishing bob or any round doo-dad that hangs from a sting, cord or chain. The necklace you are wearing may reasonably be called a bob if its pendant is round. By extension, anything glittery and pretty became a bobble.

At sea, it probably goes without saying, things in the way of bobs become both more precise and more colorful. One of the most common references aboard a sailing ship is to the bobstay. This is a rope, cable or chain that is used to pull a bowsprit downward toward the portion of the keel known as the cut-water. These are used to counterbalance the stress of the foremast stays which draw the bowsprit upwards. There are also bobstay collars which were originally made of rope but are now generally iron bands used for attaching the bobstay to the bowsprit. Bobstay holes are those close to the head through which the bobstays pass. Bobstay plates are iron plates on the keel to which the bobstays are attached.

A bob can be the weight attached to a plumb line. A ship is said to bob out when it bounces and bobs in heavy seas without making any remarkable headway. This is a particularly distressing occurrence for those afflicted with seasickness. Waves bobble when they seem to crash without any specific set or direction as during cross currents or riptides.

Bob can also apply to things people do. Shift your bob: move out of the way. Bear a bob: hurry up. A bobbery among the men is a disagreement or argument. According to The Sailor’s Word Book this was used particularly by the Royal Navy in the East Indies and China.

Happy Saturday, Brethren; only two more days until Triple P’s third annual Horror on the High Seas Week begins.

Header: Sailing Ship via All Oil Painting’s Marine Art section


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! And here I thought Bob was just your uncle...

Pauline said...

Exactly! The sea will catch you by surprise every time.