Saturday, May 5, 2012
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Go/Going/God
Go as a stand alone order is usually reserved for the shipyard and indicates the moment when a ship is ready to be released from the stocks. To go ashore implies shore leave, and “goashores” were a sailor’s best clothes, reserved in general for time on land when impressing the locals and representing the ship well would both have been a priority.
A ship is said to be going free when she is sailing with the wind on her beam, the bowlines slackened. She is going large when sailing off the wind in which case there would be much going about or tacking.
A go by is code for a strategy to get out of trouble, in the sense of the ship as a whole. As an example, Captain Aubrey gave the French ship Acheron the go by when he had his men row Surprise into a fog bank after her rudder was disabled in the movie Master and Commander.
Going through the fleet is an old and horrible form of torture inflicted in the Royal Navy prior to its abolition in the early 19th century. A criminal sailor was condemned to a certain number of lashes along side a group of ships at anchor in the same area, with the total lashes sometimes as high as 500. The unfortunate was rowed to each ship in a launch, the proscribed flogging performed, and then the launch rowed on to the next ship. Men were known to die from such punishment, and objection to this type of extremity was one of the foremost arguments against impressments of Americans by the Royal Navy which in turn led to the War of 1812.
A godsend meant an unexpected prize or sudden lifting of storm or attack. While the word God I will leave to the inimitable Admiral Smyth:
We retain the Anglo-Saxon word to designate the ALMIGHTY; signifying good, to do good, doing good, and to benefit; terms such as our classic borrowings cannot pretend to.
Since, upon his death at Trafalgar, Nelson became something of a god to the British people, Blake’s painting seems only appropriate for today.
Header: The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan by William Blake c 1805