Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Body Parts

Today Triple P’s most enduring subject, SMS, is going in a little different direction just to mix things up. Instead of focusing on one word, I offer words that on land would refer to parts of the human body. This confusion between sailor and lubber speak is not unusual, but it can be especially amusing when it hits so close to home. To make things functional, if not much easier, I’ll start at the head and end at the foot.

In the area of what would normally constitute a man’s head, there is first the brow, another word for gangplank. An eye is a loop at the end of a rope; a ship’s nose is her stem just under the bowsprit, the lower portion of which is called her chin. A cheek is one of the side pieces of a block. Lips are slightly raised portions around hatches and gratings which keep water from running off the main deck onto the decks below. Any river, harbor, bay et cetera will have what sailors refer to as a mouth where it opens up to the sea. Sails may have heads, as might masts and various other tools aboard us. The head proper, of course, is the fore part of a ship where for most of man’s history the crew’s privy was situated. Head continues to be the word for toilet aboard ship, though in most cases it has been moved to a different location.

Moving to the upper body we encounter the neck, which is the portion of an oar where the pole attaches to the blade. Throat, on the other hand, refers to the inner end of a gaff sail between the head and the luff of the sail. A chest or sea chest may also be called a locker; a metal or wooden box where men stow their gear. The portion of a sail that takes on the most wind and bulges forth as it does is known as its belly. The types of anchors that appear most familiar have two arms while an elbow is a bend or crescent in a river. A knuckle is a sharp angle in a ship’s hull. We all know a hand is one of the crew and a rib is used to frame a ship. A palm is a glove-like tool that allows a sailmaker to push a large needle through several layers of canvas.

Further down the body the waist is, of course, the central portion of any vessel. Bottom refers to the portion of a ship’s hull that sits below the waterline; one might hear seamen speak of a vessel’s “foul bottom”, in which case she is not in top sailing form and in need of careening. Butt or butt-ending is a form of planking. Knee refers to timber or iron that is bent to fit into a space and secure items together, similar to a wedge. The bottom of a mast is sometimes referred to as its heel, but this can also be called a foot which word can in turn be used when speaking of the lower part of a sail.

There are more words that correspond to body parts, and in many cases more ways to use the words we’ve just looked at, but that seems like enough for now. Fair winds and following seas, Brethren; keep your foot well heeled and an eye to her nose until next our wakes might cross.

Header: Summertime by Winslow Homer via Old Paint


daleburr said...

I was tempted to add that an "Elbow" is also applied to a turn an a half on the anchor cable caused by swinging in a tidal basin. Your last paragraph makes this unnecessary as you admit your list is incomplete. Oops, posted anyway. Hope you will forgive me for sharing your passion.


Pauline said...

Very well spoken, Dale, and a much appreciated addition as always. I am thrilled to have anyone who shares my passion stop by and share their knowlege as you do. Thank you!

Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That was an amusing post. I'm sure the additional parts you could list for this would be almost endless, but that was a good start, anyway.

Pauline said...

Exactly, Timmy! It is a rich and unending language, that of the sea.