Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Make

According to Admiral Smyth in The Sailor's Word Book, you can't get much more seaworthy in the word department than make. The simple definition of "to make", as given by the Admiral, says it all:

Is variously applied in sea-language.

And even that is an understatement. Ships, for instance, can make headway - advance through the water - make lee-way - drift to leeward according to their course - make stern way - retreat - make sail - increase the number of sails for increased speed - and so on.

A ship in dirty weather, as she rocks and pitches and particularly if she leaks, is said to be making bad weather (as if she were responsible for what she faces). A leaky ship is also said to make water, as apposed to take on water which is done when replenishing casks of the fresh variety. A slender thread separates the two terms, but an author using one for the other can be the death knell of otherwise impressive nautical fiction.

Make comes in the form of orders. Make ready! Prepare for what is about to occur. Make a lane, there! A bosun's order indicating that, as the Admiral defines it:

... [the crew at muster] should separate, to facilitate the approach of any one whose name is called.

And the now familiar "Make it so" of "Star Trek" fame which, unfortunately, was too often used incorrectly by Captain Picard. The order was given specifically to confirm the time given to a commanding officer by the officer of the watch, be it sunset, sunrise or the all important noon when the ship's day officially began.

Make fast meant to fasten something and was generally used for securing rope or cable.

Makes was used when referring to something coming in: the tide makes, the ship makes, the officer makes, etc.

A making iron is a caulking tool for finishing a seam of caulk. Making off was a whaling term for cutting up the blubber of the animal so that it would fit down into the ship's hold.

To make the land is to finally catch sight of it; that "Land, ho!" moment so popular in movies. A ship can make free with the land as well, which indicates coming very close to the shore - at times a little too close. Needless to say, this terminology carried over to activities in port, where a sailor - like the men-of-war's men in the above illustration - could make free with the ladies.

Happy Saturday, Brethren; may Saint Olga, in her goodness, intercede for you when your ship makes weather.

Header: "Men of War bound for the Port of Pleasure" late 18th century illustration via Wikimedia


Blue Lou Logan said...

I didn't know the original context of "make it so," but then Jean-Luc might be forgiven for bending the usage 500 years later. And his usage is an awfully snappy way to say, "Do it."

Pauline said...

Yeah, I suppose. Perhaps I'm being a bit of a stickler here. Forgive me.

Timmy! said...

I can't help thinking of the "Beserker" song from the movie "Clerks" in reference to this post, Pauline...

Sorry about that.

Pauline said...

That's funny. A little lewd, but funny.

Charles L. Wallace said...

"Make a hole" - let an important person come through (a crowd).

"Make water" - now that some ships have evaporators, they can be said to make water (even if they are not leaky). Those unfortunate ships without evaporators (one of which I work with!!) may only take on water.

"Make for" or making for - traveling to some given destination.

"On the make" - a reason that many people apparently join the sea services because of ;-)

Great post, Pauline, and thank you.
Thanks, too (I think) for the blessings of Saint Olga.... I'll stay out of the trees (Drevlya).

Pauline said...

Excellent; thank you for adding so much to this post, Wally. As always, your a tremendous contributor to Triple P!

Charles L. Wallace said...

Yer most welcome! I always feel badly when I miss a few posts (especially consecutively)... thankee for the kind words, Pauline.