Saturday, December 1, 2012
Sailor Mouth Saturday: Arch
The word arch actually applies to the sea on several levels. It is certainly a part of one of the most awe inspiring words relating to the ocean: archipelago. But more on that later. First...
Arch is generally thought to refer to a curve, particularly in architecture. A ship has architecture and so arches. The gently curving part of a ship's stern that sits over her so called counter is known as an arch-board. Similarly, the arch of the cove appears as the lower part of her taffrail at her very stern.
Arching is synonymous with hogging and is the indication of an ill-constructed ship. In this distressing case, the fore and aft ends droop while the waist rises up giving the ship an arched appearance and making her effectively useless.
A pump known as Archimedes' screw was employed to drain docks of water as it rose during storms or tides to any designated height. The pump was a type of spiral auger, similar to those used in granaries, and was the model to the modern screw propeller.
The term arch squall speaks to a particular type of heavy wind portended by arched clouds on the horizon. These clouds, as Admiral Smyth notes in The Sailor's Word Book, "rise rapidly toward the zenith, leaving the sky visible through" them.
Archel, or sometime archil, is a form of lichen found in the Canary islands. Originally used for a dark purple dye, it also yields the familiar chemical known as litmus of "litmus test" fame.
And then there is the archipelago. Originally spelled Aegeopelagus in Greek, the word referred to the Aegean Sea where a great group of variously sized islands were scattered about. An archipelago, or an "arches" as seafaring men of the 18th century would refer to them, is any group of like islands. The Caribbean islands, for instance, or Polynesia. I recently saw a comment from a New York writer, discussing the after effects of hurricane Sandy, which posited that New Yorkers would have to accustom themselves to "living in an archipelago." The writer was clearly confused as to the meaning of the word. And, if I may, the every-20-year or so "super storm" does not make your area either a series of islands or a hurricane alley.
One last interesting tidbit on the word arch: the Arch-Gubernus in Roman times was the commander of any imperial ship. And that is a title I plan to use for my boss. When I get a job that is.
Happy Saturday, Brethren! I'm off to the next thing. But I'll raise a tankard to you all, when I get a chance that is...
Header: Le Point de la Heve by Claude Monet via Old Paint