Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Pin

There aren't a lot of pins at sea, if I'm honest.  Pins and needles, of course, have always been handy for sewing and sailmaking is sewing elevated to fine art.  So a sailmaker would certainly use pins, and happily.  But there are a number of words associated with sailor-speak that begin with p-i-n.

Most lubbers are familiar with a maul, which is essentially a hammer made of heavy iron.  The seagoing variation was known as a pin-maul because it had the familiar flat hammer head on one end of the iron and a pointed spike on the other.  The pin was used to dig things out of wood, such as nails and old tar and oakum when re-caulking was in order.

Pintles, along with braces, are the mechanisms from which a ship's rudder is hung.  The two working in tandem connect the rudder to the ship while still allowing it to swing free and steer the ship.  As Admiral Smyth notes in The Sailor's Word Book:

The braces are secured firmly to the stern-post by jaws, which spread and are bolted on each side.  The pintles are hooks which enter the braces, and the rudder is then wood-locked; a dumb pintle on the heel finally takes the strain off the hinging portions. 

A pin-tail is not only the familiar duck with a long tail and exceptional down, but also the iron pin that connects a gun-carriage to its axle-tree in artillery.

Many small ships begin with the word pin.  A pingle was a boat usually found on the northern coasts of England and Scotland and often used for fishing.  A pink was a form of launch, with a narrow stern.  It was popular as a gunboat in the North Sea up to the mid-19th century.  Pink can also mean to catch a stow-away. 

A pinnace is a small vessel, usually two or three-masted and schooner rigged, that often featured among ship's boats.  In general, it was comparable in shape to a barge, if slightly smaller.  The French used armed pinnaces to patrol their northern coasts during the Napoleonic Wars, but the pinnace's history is much older.  Shakespeare mentions it in Henry V, and it may be from this mention - in connection with Falstaff - that the word pinnace came to mean someone who cared little about most things others find important. 

Pintados is an old word for chintz, particularly the brightly colored cloth that was imported to England from India.  Early in the career of the East India Company, the cloth was very expensive and a prized bit of booty for pirates.

Of course, the most recognizable pin of all - speaking of pirates and movies about them - is the belaying pin.  Again, in the words of the Admiral:

Short cylindrical pieces of wood or iron fixed into the fife-rail and other parts of a vessel, for making fast the running-rigging.

And, I hasten to add, a handy weapon in a pinch for the likes of Errol Flynn.

Header: Breezy by Franklin Dullin Briscoe via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

I am familiar with the type of maul used to split logs, Pauline.

I like the new look of the blog. Well done, indeed.

Cool painting too.

Pauline said...

Thank you all around. And yep, you've been known to maul a log or two in your time.