Saturday, November 24, 2012
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Key
Ship building uses the term to mean a dry piece of elm or oak which is used to wedge things, such as deck planking, much as one might use a shim for setting doors or windows by land. In the same art, a key model is an elevation of a ship created with precisely cut boards to form the outlines seen on paper.
Key can be used as a replacement pronunciation for either cay or quay. The former deriving from the old Spanish word cayos, meaning rocks. According to Admiral Smyth:
The term was introduced to [English] by the buccaneers as small insular spots with a scant vegetation; without the latter they are merely termed sandbanks. Key is especially used in the West Indies...
As in, for instance, the Florida Keys.
In the case of quay, the meaning is a long wharf or levee, often running the length of a city or settlement and built of stone. The quay will have rings, cranes, warehouses and all other amenities necessary for the merchant and, incidentally or not, pirate and smuggling trade. For instance, there was once a Rue de Quay in New Orleans which ran along the main levee facing the Mississippi where all water traffic ran. It does not take much imagination to see the famous pirates, smugglers and privateers about their work up and down that stretch. Ah, family time... Quay, as it happens, comes from the French word quai: wharf.
It follows then that keyage - or quayage - was money paid for the landing of goods upon a city's wharf. In Britain, the term was wharfage.
The key of a rudder is the same as a wood-lock. These are pieces of wood put into a ship's sternpost to prevent the rudder from rising up and unshipping. In copper bottomed ships, the keys were usually coppered as well.
Finally, a keyle is a boat also referred to as a keel. These were the flat barges used specifically for carrying coal out of the Newcastle mines. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ceol, a small bark, and has been used in the past to indicate a futile or unnecessary effort: a keel of coals to Newcastle is the nautical version of carrying coals to Newcastle. Why bother? That's where the coal comes from after all.
Happy Saturday, Brethren. And, since the season is upon us, Happy Holidays as well!
Header: Coming Up to the Marker by Franklin D. Briscoe via American Gallery